So after one day at school last month, I decided to head by a bookshop led by a major newspaper, aka, Politikens Boghal (The politics' hall of books in english, which is a stupid name for a bookshop but I digress). Whilst there, some kind of insanity took over my brain momentarily as I got out of there with 3 books - None of them fiction nor comic books. Trust me, that's not something common in my case.
The first of which I've recently finished: Christopher Hitchens' Mortality. In case you don't know who Hitchens is (or rather, was) let me fill you in: Christopher Hitchens was a journalist who took huge part in the ongoing religious debate. Something that has come to fill more and more in our age. Hitchens was one out of four pioneers of the "new atheism" thought, dubbing themselves "The Horsemen" (Named after the mythological four horsemen of the apocalypse, ironically). New Atheism is a more aggressive form of secularism, not content with merely not believing itself but also working to lessen religions grip on certain governments (most notably the influence of Christianity on America). Being a "follower" of this thought process myself I certainly sympathise with what they're attempting to do, rock on!. This book however, is something different altogether. I won't embarrass myself by trying to review it (It's out of my domain of expertise by far and Hitchens who reviewed books himself from time to time would be rolling in his grave if indeed such a thing was possible). So let me just vaguely describe what the book is all about.
Mortality in a nutshell is a compilation of the final published essays by the man Hitchens himself. Most of which were taken from the magazine Vanity Fair, of which he was a frequent contributor. The book has a morbid sort of narrative, his essays being about his worsening condition. All of these essays were written while he was treated for - and finally died of throat cancer. It's a very self-reflective book, and no amount of opportunity for well-versed sarcasm is passed by. The man was adored by some and hated by others, and in some essays he answers some attacks on his person - all the while this reader could picture a smirk on his face over the keyboard. He also jokingly mentions the idea of writing a book about interaction between a patient and loved ones. All the things not to ask and all the things not to answer. The man knows his rhetoric, wielding it with great skill. Where the book is sort of off-putting, is the final chapter. The chapter is composed of loose notes found on the man's computer post-mortem, which makes it saddening. These were some of his final thoughts.
Reading the book has made me think of my own mortality and how little thought I've put into it, the last time I remember genuinely thinking about dying was a night in march 2012, where I after having drunk enough alcohol to slur myself through Tribute by Tenacious D on a Karaoke bar had gone home. On the walk home, as readers of the blog may recall, I was struck by a car because I didn't bother to look before crossing the road. One moment I'm crossing the road thinking about some personal issues when suddenly a jolt of pain hit my left side and I was sliding across the asphalt. Not thinking about pain for a few seconds, I jumped to my feet and looked to my right. A black station car's red eyes were staring at me, I held up my hand confused to slap some sense into myself and the driver must've taken it as a sign to drive on as if nothing happened because that was just what he did. Drove on into the night, swinging down past the crossroad nearby and disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. Then and there, I thought about death. Well, for a couple of seconds anyway before my left ankle gave in from what I would find out was (thankfully) just a sprain. Allowing me to confusedly hump my way into the sidewalk before collapsing before a light pole. Now, I haven't done anything great with my life, and I certainly hadn't then so the thought of how easily death can creep up on you scares me. Looking at the numbers of course, a lot of arguments could be made for the fact that no human has done anything meaningful with their life as of yet at all - but that is far too depressing.
I'm way too happy-go-lucky to let myself drown in that way of thought though, I may be an atheist but that doesn't mean I think humanity is meaningless. The thought that humanity is a mathematical curiosity in the universe, and the thought that we humans may one day make a true impact on the vast sea of the universe is way too beautiful. Do I believe in Aliens? Definitely. Do I believe that they have made contact with Earth? Not at all. But the thought that we should be alone in the universe strikes me as sad. On the other hand the thought that we, ugly naked monkeys, should be the chosen ones of some higher being strikes me as both arrogant, angering and silly.