Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic conducted an interview with Christopher Hitchens — the well known writer who is suffering from some very serious cancer — and some of it is posted at this link, and embedded here below. This part of their discussion, which also has some contributions from the writer Martin Amis, deals with the cancer itself as well has the notion of deathbed conversion and belief in God generally. It’s interesting, and it also happens to be book-ended by audio clips of Bob Dylan singing “Gates Of Eden.”
Though I disagree with him on many if not most things these days, I like Christopher Hitchens as a writer and personality quite a lot — and who doesn’t? (Alright, Dr. Kissinger: please don’t bother writing in.)
The subject of those (quite a few) who have announced that they are praying for Hitchens comes up in the interview, and he indicates that he accepts it on a kindly basis from those praying for his recovery; as opposed, I take it, to those praying for his conversion. He remains firm in his unbelief, and even preemptively states that should he, in a moment of delirium or terror near the end, offer prayers to God, it would not be the real Christopher Hitchens who was so doing.
This, I think, raises the interesting question of who really is the real you or the real me; is it the one who is calm, poised and seemingly self-sufficient or the one who is stripped by crisis of any artifice and entirely cognizant of his or her own insignificance and desperate need for help from a higher power?
And aside from that, I’m interested in another question, of how one should pray for someone who is effectively terminally ill. I suppose when someone is relatively young — and Hitchens is just sixty years-old — it is absolutely fitting to pray for his recovery and for a longer life. I think it’s probably impossible for a Christian, at least, not to simultaneously pray that he comes to know and be known by God, whether Hitchens likes it or not. However, when someone is considerably older, perhaps well beyond the average life expectancy, is it even appropriate to pray for a complete recovery as such? However much you love someone, they’re not going to be granted immortality, after all. Instead, one may simply have to pray for God to have mercy on that person, and to hold him or her in the palm of His hand. It may mean recovery and a longer life, or it may mean an easier passing and welcome to the next world. So the act of prayer for the loved one offers a means of simultaneously facing the realities and putting one’s trust in God.
Anyway and anyhow, I do here offer a prayer that Christopher Hitchens gets considerably more time on the planet, and uses it well.
The kingdoms of Experience
In the precious wind they rot
While paupers change possessions
Each one wishing for what the other has got
And the princess and the prince
Discuss what’s real and what is not
It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden
I’m back from my travels, by the way, and thanks to those who sent notes and indeed also prayers. All is well at this time, thank God.