Friday, April 13, 2012

Life Makes Us Stronger, Period. {Part I}

I know Christopher Hitchens (1949-2012) made many people's blood boil for his views and promotion of the "New Athesism" movement. It's quite an understatement, really, because when he passed away his book, "God is Not Great," became a Twitter trending topic and for those who didn't know about the book and the author's death were riled up, to say the very least. I still remember the countless tweets like: "How can you say this?," "This isn't funny," "Is this some kind of joke?" and "Tweet if you Believe God IS great because He is!"

Maybe it's the intellectual in me but I felt sorry for those people who didn't get. It's not that I believe in the philosophy of Hitchens regarding religion but people should be informed enough to know the origination of a trending topic (an author's death) or be willing to look it up (too much to ask, I know, silly me!) before jumping on the tweet machine. So many probably haven't even heard of Hitchens and probably still don't realize that the #TT was a book title rather than a mere stunt of the day. I know it's still a disagreeable topic but there was someone behind it.

Even though we may not agree with someone's background, philosophy, or religion (or lack of) I still think there are chances, mere instances, to find something of value between the person and yourself. Finding this similarity or middle ground can be important -- at business meetings, family reunions, the coffee line and maybe even your own mini-van. Ha! There is much to disagree about in this world for sure, and for many people, including myself, *atheism is a "deal breaker," as Dr. Phil likes to say. But even so, I found something of a treasure when I read an article by Hitchens, one of the last he published, in the 2012 January issue of Vanity Fair. If you spend time with people, there are some likely gems to uncover. I hope the following, covered in two parts, will illustrate just that.

Without going into too much detail, I will tell you I have a genetic disorder called
Schwannomatosis ( and the physicians at MD Anderson in Houston have taken good
care of me the last two-and-half years. Before that, I was at the University of Washington-
Seattle. In reading Hitchens' article in Vanity Fair, it confirmed that he was a patient at MD
Anderson too. He was being seen there for esophageal cancer. Diagnosed in 2010 while on a publicity tour for a memoir, he began writing about his illness. It is in speaking of his
illness that I write about him today.

In the VF article, "Trail of Will," Hitchens discussed the ol' saying, "Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger." Not a big fan of the adage, the author finds it "increasingly

I will say I whole-heartedly agree with that! As a chronic pain patient and a person living with a genetic disorder for the past 17 years that has brought on its share of surgeries, biopsies, CTs, PETs, MRIs, countless ER visits, and more medicine than I can keep contained in
one large travel makeup container, I feel it is anything but accurate. More like inadequate, aggravating, and obviously needs editing! Ha! So, whatever doesn't kill me will...
A) kill me;
B) kill you;
C) doesn't make anyone stronger, especially the patient in question. The patient
is only tired and in need of more sleep (except insomnia is a side-effect); and/or
D) Something else might (kill ya) in this day & age (too much red meat, too much sugar, too
much sitting, too much alcohol, too many carbs... It changes nearly daily!)

In his article, Hitchens starts off his article with a pair of philosophers to make his point, Friedrich Nietzsche, who apparently coined the lovely (not!) phrase, and Sidney Hook. The article ends up focusing a lot on Nietzsche and Hitchens tries to demonstrate whether the good ol' saying was relevant in the philosopher's life or whether it was just some pretty poetic German.

It is in the last half of the article where Hitchens talks about his own experiences that gave me a new way to think of my own. But first he relays his thoughts on the quote in question: "[...] I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that 'Whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger.' In fact, I now sometimes wonder why I ever thought it profound."

I found a certain quote of his regarding pain to be especially profound and it gave me pause: "It's probably a merciful thing that pain is impossible to describe from memory. It's also
impossible to warn against."

What do YOU, MY BLOG READERS, think of this?

Yes, patients do forget how painful the day after surgery is so that when the next surgery comes around he/she (she -- as in ME!) can do it again. Funny, how that works!

Same goes for the ladies wanting baby #2 or #3. Labor is a distant memory and that sweet bundle of joy is right around the corner, never mind the contractions (yeah right!) and the bliss (pain!!) of delivery.

Also, READERS: in a medical situation, are you likely to find out what the procedure is like
beforehand or do you like to wing it? Do you think "winging it" is the better approach? Why/Why not?

So Hitchens starts to speak of his stint at MD Anderson and that alone puts me in a place I don't want to be, a place where I think of my own pain, my own loss, my own future.

So... we will talk about it next time! Part II How I Reacted to Hitchens Words...

But first...
Do you think it is wise to educate yourself on people in the public eye that you
fundamentally disagree with in order to simply know who the person is and what they represent?
Or... Do you feel that if you don't like a person or fundamentally disagree with the person,
you ignore articles that feature the person and do not learn about their background even if he or she is a newsmaker?

Hitchens photo courtesy of:
Vanity Fair cover:

 ©The Healing Redhead

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