In my mind, I picture a goateed David Horowitz, hair reaching for his shoulders, as a ball of energy adroitly parrying the barbs from a college lecture hall packed with sour critics. Surely this vigorous man has no business writing about death? But the David Horowitz that churns out a book a year and speaks at dozens of campuses annually is also sixty-six years old. He’s eligible for AARP membership perks. And, of most importance for this narrative, he’s a cancer survivor.
David Horowitz’s The End of Time is a beautiful book about death. Horowitz is skeptical that anything happens after death, and thus the book focuses on life instead; or more precisely, life’s coda. Death, Horowitz writes, “is an injustice that no reformer can repair and no court can redress.”
And it was a brush with death that inspired Horowitz to take up his pen for The End of Time. Shortly after 9/11, the sixties radical turned present-day conservative was diagnosed with prostate cancer. With a new wife, a new beachfront home, and a new enemy to fight, the grim reaper’s visit came, as it often does, at an inopportune time. But with the aid of modern medicine, Horowitz beat cancer and sent the reaper on his grim way. “I had been lucky,” the author concedes, “but I had not been given a pardon, only a reprieve.”
The cancer scare led Horowitz to reflect on reactions to death by a diverse collection of figures, including scientist Blaise Pascal, novelist Saul Bellow, and terrorist Mohammed Atta. Pascal, the brilliant Frenchman, met his end suddenly at 39 after taking in mendicants riddled with smallpox. In his final years, Pascal prepared for life’s end as if it were a new beginning—donating his possessions and turning from science to religion.
Horowitz portrays the Nobel laureate Bellow as cringing at the prospect of his life’s work dying at some later date. Horowitz ponders: “Would a lifetime of lonely labors be requited if all that authorial effort crumbled to dust with the pages that recorded it and vanished?” For the writer, there is a fate worse than death: no more readers.
In the book’s most arresting passages, the author compares Islamic terrorist Mohammed Atta to his atheist communist father, Phil Horowitz. “The Prophet Mohammed would beget the disciple Atta; the prophet Marx, my father. Others would follow them, and nothing I could do or say would change it,” writes Horowitz. “Like Mohammed Atta,” the author concludes, “my father was an ineffectual man thwarted in his earthly desires.”
Superficially distant, the communist and the Islamist are in fact quite similar. Both seek to make heaven on earth. Neither spares in his means nor realizes his ends. The road to heaven on earth thus detours to a dead end resembling a much hotter destination. Lofty goals beget vile methods: for the communist, the gulag; for the Islamist, beheadings, car bombings, and hijackings. “Progressives looked the other way and then endorsed the murder of untold innocents for the same reason that Mohammed Atta and the Islamic martyrs did: to make the new world possible.” Horowitz rhetorically asks: “What did Mohammed Atta hope for but a better world; and what progressive soul does not wish for that?”
Controversy follows David Horowitz. His recent campaigns against slavery reparations for 21st-century African Americans, left-wing bias in the academy, and the menace of Islamic fanatics have earned him many desirable enemies and the protests of the loud and obnoxious. No martyr, Horowitz seems to relish the often caustic give-and-take with his intellectual adversaries.
But in The End of Time, we get David Horowitz with the volume turned down. Contemplating life’s deepest questions, Horowitz Unplugged results in a book with few political overtones. Even his bitterest enemies could read this slim book without an increase in blood pressure. Part autobiography, part advice manual, part inspirational essay, The End of Time is a quick and pleasant read on an unpleasant subject.
“None of us are outsiders,” Horowitz writes. “We are all going to the same destination.” No, we’re all departing from the same place. Our destination is a mystery solved only upon death.