Sunday, December 18, 2011

On Life, Death & Who I Want to Be

I am always saddened to hear that someone has died.  It doesn't matter whether it was a friend, family member, celebrity or perfect stranger.  Death is sad.  First off there is the sadness surrounding the life that could have been lived.  More so is the thought of the family and friends that are left to mourn their loss and find a way to move forward.  However, unless the individual was someone with whom I felt particularly close, the sadness I feel is reserved and not to the level of actual grieving.  If I fully grieved for every passing I would be left in a whirlwind of despair.  As an atheist I believe I only have this life to live and that constant deep depression would not be a good use of the short time I have.  Death is after all just another part of life.

I seem to be making an exception to my rule.  This week the world lost Christopher Hitchens and I am finding myself grieving.  He was not a friend.  He didn't know me and I can't even really say that I knew him.  I've read his books and articles and I've watched his interviews and debates so I know many of his views and thoroughly enjoy his writing, but I couldn't even begin to truly know him.  A lot of the time I didn't even agree with him.  I often found his views on foreign situations in particular to be repugnant.

Yet I admired him.  Probably more than anyone else.  The reason for this is his strength and courage in the face of adversity.  I'm not even talking about his fight with cancer although it would be a good example.  I'm talking about the way he lived.  Every one of his opinions was based on extensive knowledge along with many first hand experiences.  His opinions were generally unpopular and he often put himself in the minority, but he still stood strong - not necessarily unwavering, but strong nonetheless.  He was willing to put himself on center stage to fight for what he believed in and not just so he could spew his one-sided ideas to the masses.  He was at his best when he was debating those who were deemed to be the best of the best of the opposition.

I found him utterly inspiring.  While I'll never have his eloquence or his quick wit, I will still aspire to his courage and confidence when it comes to speaking out about the things that spark my passion.  I will do my best to present well thought out and researched views while still listening to those who disagree with me.  I will emulate his honesty and humour. 

My passionate views have already lost me my fair share of "friends", both personal and virtual (ie Facebook), but I will soldier on regardless.  Hitchens has demonstrated to me the importance of remaining vocal on important issues regardless of the backlash.  The backlash for Hitchens has occasionally led to vicious beatings.  I think I can handle the end of a few relationships.  Those who distance themselves from others based solely on opposing views show a certain weakness in their own character.  I would therefore counter that these people were never actually my friends at all as they weren't willing to accept and care about me as the outspoken person I am rather than the reticent person they wanted me to be.  I personally care deeply about the views of my friends even when they are polar opposite to my own. 

So this is why I find myself mourning the loss of Hitch.  I feel like the world has lost an amazing role model.  At least we can be grateful that he lives on through YouTube where he will continue to inspire future generations to think for themselves!

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