Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hitch, closet dualist

Meghan O'Rourke's sobering essay on how some writers have written their own endings includes Hitch's acknowledgement that rejecting dualism is much easier said than done, when it comes down to it. Even the staunchest atheist is liable to look for an escape clause.
In notes appended to “Mortality,” Hitchens observes: “Always prided myself on my reasoning faculty and my stoic materialism. I don’t have a body, I am a body. Yet consciously and regularly acted as if this was not true, or as if an exception would be made in my case.”
The wise and brilliant John Updike was also taken aback by his final confrontation with the human condition, made to realize that we're really only young once.
As [he] asks in earnest, heartbreaking surprise, having glimpsed himself looking remarkably old in a bathroom mirror, “Where was the freckled boy who used to peek / into the front-hall mirror, off to school?”
Anatole Broyard also had to discover at first hand, as we all probably do, that the trite truth still and always applies:we don't have forever. O'Rourke:
The dissonance here is that dying is not really like entering “another country.” As Sontag observed accurately, it is our country from birth: “Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.” But in a world that lacks an ethics of death, as ours does, we live estranged from this deeper knowledge. Perhaps because we must.
Deadlines - NYTimes.com

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