“Drink-sodden popinjay” Christopher Hitchens is dying. I’ve always wobbled back and forth on whether or not I liked the man; his writing has always been excellent but after he fell into the pro-Iraq War trappings of “spreading democracy by the barrel of a gun” and the neo-conservative agenda, he lost me. In the last few years he’s become one of the leading voices of militant atheism, a movement I can sympathize with but which tends to polarize instead of spread any understanding or create cohesion between like-minded humanists (or, heaven forbid, rational or socially-minded moderate religious people). But he’s most famous for being a cigarette-loving drinker – hardly a unique descriptor for a writer – and it seems that it’s all caught up to him. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer that has spread to his lungs. He’s not yet sixty years old. By his own account, he won’t make it another five years.

When you’re relatively young, it’s easy to dismiss the threats of smoking and drinking. I’ve been doing it for years, continuously telling myself that I’ll quit when I’m thirty, I’ll quit when I’m married, or I’ll quit when I have a child. Whichever comes first. But it’s easier said than done. Hitchens is a person that genuinely enjoys smoking and drinking, so it’s his choice if he wanted to enjoy it right up to death’s door. I’m not so keen on that. I enjoy smoking, sure – I don’t consider myself trapped by it like some people – but I don’t find it worth what could happen to me a few decades down the line. Or so I tell myself as I keep smoking.

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