Christopher Hitchens essay on cancer lacks soul : the soul of survival (he died from the cancer I have--esophageal, thanks Chris!)
. Throughout the slim volume, Hitchens's brain does fingertip push-ups but the words are cold chunks of coal without the diamond-generating heat of passion. He archly dismisses the two-edged serum of chemo as a "transparent bag of poison," which is technically true without cancer, its malignant dance partner. Hitchens refers to cancer as a "malady." Talk about sounding British!
People in Jane Austen novels have maladies! Cancer is a word that defines itself all too well. When faced with death, steroid-frontal-lobed Hitchens ducks for cover in the trench-like folds of his cerebral cortex stating "as often as I am encouraged to 'battle' my own tumor, I can't shake the feeling that it is the cancer that is making war on me." He's a victim? Hitchens is making a major concession to the disease. This from a guy who supported the Iraq War!
At another point, to illustrate cancer's randomness, Hitchens deconstructs the phrase: How can this happen to me? And foully states: "To the dumb question 'Why me?" the cosmos barely bothers to reply: Why not?" What kind of thought is that? It's a font-leaden horror. Would he say that quip to a parent as their six-year old child receives chemo? His defeatist attitude gets worse. "I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient." What about fighting for the love of others? Caring for the suffering around you? Widening your heart beyond your chest cavity?
Hitchens described chemo as receiving a "transparent bag of poison" in a "venom sack" plugged into your arm that "swamps you with passivity and impotence" where you are "dissolving in powerlessness like a lump of sugar in water." Powerless during chemo, no way! You're only powerless if you don't have access to chemo, radiation or any treatment. And "passivity?"
There's nothing "passive" about shaving your head, wearing tubes, and lugging yourself into treatment. Passivity is refusing treatment. I saw many courageous men, women, and children persevere through chemo. There was nothing passive about them! Or their caregivers! When you allow a nurse to access a port or stick a needle in your vein you're involved.
I wonder if an atheist is also person who lacks faith in being redeemed through the love of others?