To round out Mortality by Christopher Hitchens, his editors added notebook material. It is material that is impressionistic and not fully worked up in its argumentation. Take for instance this bit which leaves me puzzled.
Larkin good on fear in “Aubade,” with implied reproof to Hume and Lucretius for their stoicism. Fair enough in one way: atheists ought not to be offering consolation either.
I am in favour of consolation. I am no tough guy. Consolation can arise from facing the inevitability of death.
In my reading Philip Larkin’s poem is more indifferent. One stanza ends with the observation that
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
I take my cue from fiction. Neil Gaiman in The Ocean at the End of the Lane has its narrator remark
I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I found joy in the things that made me happy.
It is possible to achieve this insight as an adult without recourse to a story of recuperating the wisdom of the child. Hitchens himself does this in several brave passages of Mortality. His unflinching gaze and steadfast moral stance inspires. However it is the sometimes small asides that provide valuable moments that act as inadvertent signposts to consolation. Consider the remarkable friendship with Dr. Francis Collins who crops up numerous times in this short book. Collins, a man of faith (and a man of science), is credited for not recommending prayer to the terminally ill atheist. There is relish in the retelling of this, this small thing.
And so for day 1059