SM: Oh yeah, I don’t believe that one bit — that very childish, macho-Nietzschean idea that hard things make us stronger — I just find it utterly bankrupt and utterly imprecise, or inaccurate, I should say. Because bad things keep happening to you until you can’t bear them anymore, and then you die. That’s the accurate narrative. And it’s tempting — or, I don’t know, it’s seductive, especially for young people — to think that doing hard things will make you stronger and stronger and stronger. But, think of the physical universe: you can’t keep bashing at a piece of wood without it breaking. So, I don’t think I became like a better, wiser person.
In fact, in The Guardians, I say that all I’ve learned from this loss is that I now am statistically less likely — no, I don’t even say that. I can’t remember the passage completely — as I say, as soon as I write it, it’s gone. But I think Jonathan Franzen wrote something similar about David Foster Wallace in one of the essays that he wrote closely following his death, which actually occurred in the same year that Harris died. And so I followed Franzen’s writing about Dave, not because I’ve ever met Jonathan Franzen but because there was some comfort in knowing that people were thinking and writing about these things.