Today is the late author’s sixty-fourth birthday. I wasn’t familiar with Hitchens’ work while he was alive. It was only after a friend recommended his book Mortality that I became aware of Hitchens as anything other than a name that gets mentioned in the same breath as Dawkins and Harris. Mortality was an amazing book; the man faced death the same way he faced life.
Since then, I’ve moved on to the other books in Hitchens’ body of work. Currently, I’m about halfway through Arguably: Selected Essays.
I wish I’d come across this advice from “A Letter of Advice to Young Contrarians” earlier in my life, but I’m glad to know it now and be able to share it:
Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.
Words to live by and Hitchens undeniably did.