I learned of Christopher Hitchens' death just after midnight last night, and for the first time in a very long time, I had a dream that I can remember. In it, I was seated across a small table from Hitchens and he looked ghastly, and I realized I was watching him die. Looking at his hands as they involuntarily clenched, I tried to look him in the face and kept repeating "What will I read now? There'll be nothing to read!" He faded from me and the dream ended.
When I awoke, I posted a message online that said "The best evidence that "god" is not great is that Christopher Hitchens has left us far too soon. What an enormous loss." A friend -- a good man -- responded, "He messed with the big guy," implying that Hitchens' death was somehow tied to his outspoken stance against religion. In reply, I asked if this was also "god's" excuse for killing thousands of innocent children every day. That ended that exchange, but really started me thinking: if there is a god (and I don't believe there is) he couldn't possibly admire any of his creations as much as Christopher Hitchens.
Hitchens bravely called out spectacularly overrated figures like Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, Jerry Falwell, Gandhi, and Henry Kissinger criminals, frauds, and charlatans. And while many were upset by such undressings, no one could successfully counter his points. He regularly shamed the Catholic Church for its sins, supported a war that liberated a nation, argued tirelessly on behalf of the right of women around the world, and decried the violence and threat of Islamists. He despised injustice and had the introspection to change his beliefs. Clearly this was the work, indeed the life, of an honorable man.
Through his writings, Hitchens taught me things I'd never have learned elsewhere, made me consider points of view that could only come from someone with his combination of massive intellect and enviable courage, and entertained me with a writing style that can never, ever be duplicated. I have come to rely on his articles in Vanity Fair, Slate, and elsewhere, to help shape my own views. And whenever an important event took place, I found myself counting the minutes until I could hear Hitchens' angle on the matter. If that isn't an essential element of companionship, albeit one-sided, then I don't know one when I see one.
But now that's gone. I've lost an ally whom I've never met but admired tremendously. So tonight, I'll drink some Johnny Walker Black -- what he called "The Breakfast of Champions" -- and try to console myself with the fact that his books are always there for me, like old friends.