Given that God’s existence can’t, according to Pascal, be proven by reason, a person should, he said, wager that He exists. What is there to lose? Hence, during the coming weeks, I’ll be praying for Christopher Hitchens. Wishing him good health as he undergoes treatment for cancer of the esophagus. Apt this praying, I’d say, in light of what Paul Horowitz writes here about Hitchens:
It is not only incompatible ideas and comrades that Hitchens comfortably embraces, but modes of being. He is both a political renegade and keeper of the flame, a ferocious partisan and practiced ironist, a postmodern skeptic and romantic nostalgist, a passionate moralist and calculating operator, a hard-headed critic and dewy-eyed sentimentalist, a serious thinker and attention grabber, irreverent contrarian and serenader of the choir, one-dimensional polemicist and literary polymath, self-styled Man of the People and accomplished social climber, and — most inexplicable — an Oxonian gentleman with conservative manners who is also a master of vitriol and ad hominem.
Throughout this narrative, we are alerted to Hitchens’s pursuit of “the Janus-faced mode of life.” As the Roman god of temple doorways, Janus looked both ways and is depicted with two faces in the statuary honoring him. Grabbing the horns of his own enigma, Hitchens observes that the doors of the temple were open in time of war, and war “is a time when the ideas of contradiction and conflict are most naturally regnant,” and that the most intense wars are civil, and the most rending conflicts internal. “What I hope to do now,” he says of the text before us, “is give some idea of what it is like to fight on two fronts at once, to try and keep opposing ideas alive in the same mind, even occasionally to show two faces at the same time.”