“A life that partakes even a little of friendship, love, irony, humor, parenthood, literature, and music, and the chance to take part in battles for the liberation of others cannot be called ‘meaningless’ except if the person living it is also an existentialist and elects to call it so. It could be that all existence is a pointless joke, but it is not in fact possible to live one’s everyday life as if this were so…
‘When people become older they become a little more tolerant,’ snaps the case-hardened Komorovski to the hot young idealist Pasha Antipov in Dr. Zhivago. ‘Perhaps because they have more to ‘tolerate’ in themselves,’ replies Antipov in what for many years I considered a very cutting return serve.
I sometimes feel that I should carry around some sort of rectal thermometer, with which to test the rate at which I am becoming an old fart. There is no point in pretending that the process doesn’t occur: it happens to me when near-beardless uniformed officials or bureaucrats, one third of my age, adopt a soothing tone while telling me, ‘Sir, I’m going to have to ask you…’ It also happens when I hear some younger ‘wannabe’ radicals employing hectoring arguments to which I have almost forgotten the answer. But that at least is because the arguments themselves are so old that they almost make me feel young again. From this kind of leathery awareness, nature itself protects the young, and a good thing, too, otherwise they would be old before their time and be taking no chances. Meanwhile, all of my children have negotiated the shoals of up-growing with a great deal more maturity than I did, and most of my moments of feeling that the world is not as bad as it might be have come from my students, especially the ones who decided in college that they wanted to join the armed forces and guard me while I sleep. (Meeting some of them later, after they have done a tour or two, has been particularly uplifting.) No, when I check the thermometer I find that it is the fucking old fools who get me down the worst, and the attainment of that level of idiocy can often require a lifetime…”
From Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens.
Read other excerpts from Hitchens’s memoir here: