Book Review: Mortality

There is something beautiful in finality, all things come to an end and as far as we can tell we are simply conscious beings, here one moment and without any rhyme or reason gone in the next. Our time is fleeting, yet for some reason, we (humanity) go to extreme lengths to pretend and act as if this was not true. We have not evolved to live forever but forever seems to be within our hearts. (Yes, the biblical irony is not un-noted).

There is something compelling in unity. We find this in the purposes we pursue within the lives that we lead. Religion gives this to us as well, we find a central doctrine or person to attach ourselves to. That is why we have created these stories that went on to form the religions we follow in the first place. We crave a purpose bigger than anything we can attribute from just ourselves to ourselves, we long for another to attribute a purpose we can fully live for, and so we make it up. We need those around us to believe and adhere to these man-made truths as well because without a story we could never found a civilisation with a unified purpose.

This book is beautiful. It casts a light and reminds us of the thread that runs through the whole of humanity. The end will come, and that fact alone truly unifies us all. We are mortal.

Mr Hitchens died on the 15th of December 2011 from hospital-acquired pneumonia, a complication he acquired due to the treatment he was receiving for oesophageal cancer.

Throughout his time of finding out he had cancer, he wrote a series of short essays that were published in newspapers and journals, aiming at bringing to light how he was dealing with his cancer, what cancer is really like and how someone of his influence and vocal atheism was being responded to by the general public.

This book was published posthumously and is a gathering together of these short essays by his widow Carol Blue and close friends. 

But like the essays themselves, it ends short… Mr Hitchens’ death was not expected to come as suddenly as it did. He still had more he wanted to share and write. The final few pages show that. They are a collection of notes and scribblings that he took down to form the basis of more essays and thoughts that he wanted to share.

We get to see them collected and because of that we get to share in the honest intellectual musings of a dying atheist, who let’s be honest, has had a massive effect on the atheist philosophical movement across the world.

For lack of a better turn of phrase; I loved this book. Mr Hitchens’ honest, frank and eloquent discourse shook me to my core. As if I was meeting with him at regular intervals, he takes the time to update me with prose and quotes as he goes on a journey from life to death, allowing me to see how cancer leeches utterly everything in the end.

It is heart-breaking and at the same time helpful. Cancer is something that will have either affected you or a loved one directly, or it will do one day.

We will all face the end one day and to be able to have books like this to work through is essential. I can’t express myself the way Mr Hitchens’ can. I can’t share and draw points together in the same clear cut and witty narrative that he can. But I can allow this book to help me be honest before the same time comes for me or a loved one so that when it does, I am not facing a stranger.

I rarely get taken out on the blindside. When it happened (after the first chapter), I dreaded every paragraph from then on. Yet nothing was going to let me put this book down.

I might not fully agree with his worldview but nevertheless, I respect him and I honour him for allowing people like me, who didn’t even know he existed until well after he has left us, to enjoy his work and continue to find it utterly engaging, ground-breaking and poetic.

I would strongly recommend anyone to read this if you want an honest account of one man’s journey from life into death via cancer. Let’s be honest, we will all experience the journey one day via a repertoire of differing routes. No matter how much we want it to be true, we did not evolve to live forever.

‘From Alan Lightman’s intricate 1993 novel Einstein’s Dreams; set in Berne in 1905:

With infinite life comes an infinite list of relatives. Grandparents never die, nor do great-grandparents, great-aunts … and so on, back through the generations, all alive and offering advice. Sons never escape from the shadows of their fathers. Nor do daughters of their mothers. No one ever comes into his own … Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free.

Hitchens, Christopher. Mortality (pp. 92-94). Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition. (Italics my own)

Don’t forget – you can follow me on Goodreads to see what I am reading here, I joined just before Jan 2020 🙂

_End of Blog Blurb_

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.

Podcast: If you like what you read then you could always check out the podcast ‘When Belief Dies’, it is available on all major podcasting platforms or you can listen via YouTube. Dave and I upload and publish via Anchor FM each Wednesday at 7 am.

Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.

Time Frame: This blog is roughly six to nine months behind where I currently am at in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting.

If you want to connect with me, then you can get in touch via any of the social media links that can be found at the top of the page. If you want to get every post straight to your inbox then you can do that by either following directly via WordPress or with your email address, whichever you prefer – the links are to the right.

I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂

-Sam

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