Hitchens: It’s not for everybody. Not everyone wants to always be an outcast or out of step or against the stream. But if you do feel that the consensus doesn’t speak for you, if there’s something about you that makes you feel that it would be worth being unpopular or marginal for the chance to lead your own life and have a life instead of a career or a job, then I can promise you it is worthwhile, yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: What’s the worst part of it(Cancer)? Is it -- it puts some
sense of mortality in your focus?
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: No, because I think the focus on mortality is a
useful thing to have, and that’s why I begin my book with it. You should
CHARLIE ROSE: Before you knew.
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: -- that your time is very limited, and that
you’re lucky to live in a time and place where you can be healthy until
you’re 60, as I was. Most people in history never had a chance even to
hope for a thing like that. So, no for the avoidance of hubris, I think
it’s good to have a sober feeling of the presence of death.
"Man is a frightened animal who must lie in order to live.
Societies are standardized systems of death denial. "
Humans hide from mortality in many ways. We hide our dead. We hide our waste. We hide our bodies. We hide our foods origin. We are hiding from the knowledge that we are animals too.
The Animal is eaten. The Animal dies into oblivion. That is why Darwin and Evolution have been a source of contention for cultural apologists because culture is the imaginary boundary to protect the human species from the reality of the animal kingdom. "I am not an animal" the human proclaims to deny death and to deny the fragility of life. Culture gives the human the illusion that it will rise above the fate of the animal.
Kierkegaard's torment was the direct result of seeing the world as it really is in relation to his situation as a creature. The prison of one's character is painstakingly built to deny one thing and one thing alone: one's creatureliness. The creatureliness is the terror. Once you admit that you are a defecating creature and you invite the primeval ocean of creature anxiety to flood over you. But it is more than creature anxiety, it is also man's anxiety, the anxiety that results from the human paradox that man is an animal who is conscious of his animal limitation. Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth of one's condition. What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous.
What would the average man do with a full consciousness of absurdity? He has fashioned his character for the precise purpose of putting it between himself and the facts of life; it is his special tour-de-force that allows him to ignore incongruities, to nourish himself on impossibilities, to thrive on blindness. He accomplishes thereby a peculiarly human victory: the ability to be smug about terror. Sartre has called man a "useless passion" because he is so hopelessly bungled, so deluded about his true condition. He wants to be a god with only the equipment of an animal, and so he thrives on fantasies. As Ortega so well put it in the epigraph we have used for this chapter, man uses his ideas for the defense of his existence, to frighten away reality.