In December of 2011, Christopher Hitchens died at MD Anderson, a hospital renowned for its cutting-edge oncology treatments. When I first heard the news, I was utterly devastated. I loved to hear him speak and debate, as the often provocative words seemed to flow from some boundless stream of wit and wash over us with the soothing timbre of his voice. His voice was a deceptively smooth whiskey for the ear: you could get drunk off his words even though they sometimes stung. What an amazing voice lost. Before succumbing to esophageal cancer, he did take Nietzsche, and himself, to task for ever saying such a banal thing as ""WAS MICH NICHT UMBRINGT MACHT MICH STÄRKER." These words, like all others, were proclaimed by people weakened unto death.
There are, in fact, many things that do not destroy you and do not make you stronger. Suffering deserves its own special place of consideration.
Long have I put off writing about my own experience with suffering and illness. Perhaps too long. Reading Hitchens words* (in Trial of the Will) reminds me of what I know deep down. The agony of pain will make you relent in the end. Whatever bravado you show in the light of a healthy day will soon be lost, forfeited to the the silent specter of intractable suffering.
Down it goes
along with the pride of life.
Down it goes into the soul,
past the soul towards something deeper still.
Suffering takes you so far down
that "the you" you were before it,
though you may return by degrees to "that" former state,
will never see "that" full light of life again.
Life is about simple math with infinite outcomes. It’s a game of subtraction, really. An infinite regress. Entropy takes over. The cumulative effects of living are also the overtures of impending death.