FOOTNOTE: If You Want to be Awe Indpired

Hitchens speech transcript:

I’m not as I was. Some of you I’d urgently felt I ought to do while saying, and one mustn’t repine or relate to self pity about that, but at this present moment I have to say. I feel very envious of someone who’s young and active and starting out in this argument.

Just think of the extraordinary things that are happening to us. Go for example to the Smithsonian museum, To the new hall of human origins, magnificently curated and new in exhibition. Which Shows among other things the branch, or branches along which perhaps three, certainly three, maybe four if you count Indonesia, humanoid shall we say anthropoid species, died out, not very long ago within measurable distance of 75, 000 years or so possibly destroyed by us possibly not, we don’t know. We know they decorated their graves, we think they probably had language ability, we don’t know if they had souls, I’m sorry I cant help you there But I so envy those who could glimpse.

I’ve only mentioned three or four of the things that have magnetized and charmed and gratified me to think about in the recent past, and how much I hope that each of you form some such ambition this evening and carries it forward, In the meantime, we had the same job we always had, to say as thinking people and as humans that there are no final solutions, there is no absolute truth, there is no supreme leader, there is no totalitarian solution, that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would just abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours but we have to begin by repudiating all such claims grand rabbi’s, chief ayatollahs, infallible popes, the peddlers or surrogate and mutant quasi political religion and worship.

The dear leader, the great leader, we have no need for any of this, and looking at them and their record and the pathos of their supporters I realize that it is they who are the grand imposers and my own imposture this evening was mild by comparison, Thank you very much.

Advertisements

If You Want to be Awe Inspired

In times of confusion and vulnerability there is nothing quite like something awe inspiring. Something that reminds you that in this cold, dark; possibly infinite universe, that you have the power to change yourself, a power that no one else can give to you. People find this notion scary, that there is no fate, that there is no divine purpose, but honestly I couldn’t think of anything more awe inspiring. Scary – yes, but still awe inspiring. The knowledge that you can choose your own path, your own purpose. It’s often in these confusing moments that we look to religious figures; to a deity. To something inhuman, something or someone not susceptible to the flaws of the homo sapien. Something perfect, but there is no beauty in perfection, there is nothing awe inspiring about perfection.

Recently another pre-human fossil has been discovered, this time in Europe, a discovery that is rewriting human history. What is truely awe inspiring of other fossils we’ve found is that we’ve found them in burial sites. These common ancestors look so familiar but yet so alien at the same time. Will these new findings lead to similar revelations on human behaviour? Time will tell. One day I hope to see the Hall of Human Origin at the Smithsonian Museum, that would be awe inspiring, to see the branches of human kind. They commemorated their dead with grave decorations, and likely had language of their own. So like us, yet so alien. The time outlasts us all.

In this sombre mood, in this time of confusion, I look to a man who inspires me, the late Christopher Hitchens. A hero for lack of a better term, as he himself would say. Specifically the final public speech he ever gave, that is what awe inspires me.

“In the meantime, we had the same job we always had, to say as thinking people and as humans that there are no final solutions, there is no absolute truth, there is no supreme leader, there is no totalitarian solution, that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would just abandon your critical faculties the world of idiotic bliss can be yours”

Christopher Hitchens – 13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011

It’s been several years since he passed, in his memory I’d like to share the classic Dylan Thomas poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.