Ed's Note | What doesn’t kill you makes you come outside
Almost a decade after the late and mighty British critic Christopher Hitchens exploded Friedrich Nietzsche’s contention that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” I found myself revisiting the 2012 Vanity Fair essay that laid to ruin a much-parroted affirmation.
As oesophageal cancer ate away at the great contrarian’s body — but never his wit, dexterity with the pen or commitment to unbelief — he declared: “In the brute physical world, and the one encompassed by medicine, there are all too many things that could kill you, don’t kill you, and then leave you considerably weaker.” And well he might have held that belief, as the vessel that carried such a fierce intellect became “viciously weakened”, not only by disease but also “by the very medicine that is keeping [him] alive”. Indeed, sometimes that which fails to kill you can break you down, make you more cynical and more resigned to the inevitability of capitulation in one form or the other.
As our unwelcome invader of multiple strains has shown, weeks after it has tried to kill you and failed it can trigger pre-existing ailments that can forever alter your quality of life. But it is also true that what doesn’t kill you can present an opportunity to start over, to give new meaning to the miraculous fact of your still-beating heart, irrespective of its strength. With the ambivalent early-September weather — one of global warming’s bitter gifts — the true beginning of spring now comes towards the end of the month.