Deaths of Vaclav Havel and Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens I don’t know much about as he rose to prominence in the 1980s, a decade that largely passed me by unawares. Havel I was aware of in the late 70s and read a couple of his plays, and then later, at the time of the Velvet Revolution, but not much since. Both seem to have had a character of rumbustious contrariness that I normally admire, even though I am certain Hitchens and I would have numerous areas of intense disagreement.
But how is it that the loonies come out of the woodwork whenever someone’s death hits the news? Following a link to the youtube clip of Hitchens on Death, in the long list of viewers’ comments I find one by ‘ravenelvenlady’:
Rest in Peace Mr. Hitchens. You probably know for yourself now that we continue on, disembodied, and that this is all death really is.
Raven Elven Lady (to break down her moniker a bit) is clearly something of an expert on the beyond (perhaps she got an Arts and Humanities Research grant to take a fact-finding tour of the hereafter, or is dead herself and therefore writing from the other side: if not I am fascinated that she writes about the state of being dead with such carefree authority).
What is it that incites certain individuals to quack on about the afterlife as if they were in possession of secret information which no one in the history of human endeavour has ever been able to prove – in spite of the millions of efforts that have been made, from cranks with crow’s intestines to Ouija boards to Christ raising Lazarus from the tomb? You would have thought if there were an afterlife of any kind at all that there might be some way of getting a message back that laid all doubt to rest, but this has never happened, not once in thousands of years of recorded history.
So just why are the loonies out there, cheering on (or blasting to damnation) Hitchens’ eternal soul? Probably because Hitch himself can’t answer them back now.
What he does say in his interview is: “My strongest allegiance is to a group of people whose main interest is in the uncertainty principle.”
I think I know what he means, but he isn’t talking about Heisenberg, strictly speaking, rather a more generous application of uncertainty, on behalf of those of us who don’t know what exactly is going on in the universe, and can live with that, rather than having to impose infantile explanatory models onto life – one’s own and everyone else’s.
Anyhow, I think I’ll read his book. It isn’t a novel so I’m not cheating.