Saturday, 29 May 2010

A Great, Intimidating Voice

I am, and have been for some time, and admirer of Christopher Hitchens.

I was directed to this article by a friend through the week and it reminded me of the fact that his autobiography, Hitch 22, was being released this week. I picked up a copy and am almost done devouring it. If ever there was a man who can put your intellect in its place with a limit of 200 words, it is Hitch. The pages of his memoir are so cram-packed with significant historical figures and events, all of which he was either present for or shared a drink with, that one can't help but be immediately intimidated by him. I catch myself feeling remarkably inadequate when I consider his intricate understanding of marxism and the delicate, yet dichotomously volatile, power shifts and balances of the sixties. I find myself jealous of the sheer number of causes that were begging to be fought for in the time of young Hitchens.

A bit of perspective brings me right back to present-day Earth, of course (there are ample causes waiting to be crusaded for right here and now - more on that in the next couple of posts). A little while ago I was overcome with an almost crushing sense of ignorance of the world around me. There was a month where I'd restricted my sleeping to a couple of hours each night - the rest of my time dedicated to learning as much as I could about anything that would interest me. I resented all the time I had wasted at learning institutions over the years. I hated the fact that I'd allowed myself to become complacent in my own headspace, committing the dreadful sin of believing my learning to be done and all that was left was application. The results of this feverish catchup on lost time were predictable enough - I burned out, forgot most of the detailed information I'd gleaned (if not it's general content) and made a compromise to continue learning as much as I could, from as many different sources, as long as I was waking up to a new day. For the most part this has worked out for me.

But every so often, one gets a whiff of inspiration to go that little bit harder.

'If you have never experienced the feeling that you are chained to the steam engine of history, let me assure you that it is a very intoxicating one.'

So goes one of the more memorable quotes from Hitch 22.

Someday, I'd love to know if he's right.

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