God bless you, Mr Vonnegut

by Author on October 12, 2010

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” From “God Bless You Mr Rosewater”, Kurt Vonnegut

“Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the universe.” From “Hocus Pocus”, Kurt Vonnegut.

“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too.” From “Mother Night”, Kurt Vonnegut

“Listen. We are here on earth to fart around. Don’t let anyone tell you any different”. From “Timequake” , Kurt Vonnegut

Some people I can admire. Some I can appreciate their true genius. But not many I would call heroes. At the head of that small band I would place Kurt Vonnegut. It’s now three years since he died, and re-reading one of his last published works, “A Man Without a Country” showed me again, as if I needed any reminding, what we are all missing. In a very slim and sparsely populated volume, he still manages to cram in more wisdom than you’ll find anywhere else. Except maybe in another Kurt Vonnegut book.

Kurt Vonnegut was to most of us “just” a writer. He was also an artist; an idealist; a sceptic; a humanist. He was to my mind the true master of the deceptively simple statement in service of a giant imagination. My father shared a lot of these same traits, and the thought kept surfacing reading “A Man Without a Country” that I wished I had spent some time when he was alive talking to him about Vonnegut’s books, and his thinking, and sharing some of his views on what’s important in life. Although he had enough heroes of his own to be going on with, and enough books to read, music to play and poems to write to keep him busy enough!

Maybe, when someone moves from the “admired” list to the much shorter “hero” list, that can only be a personal thing; the reasons, and feelings, can only be our own.

Even so, I’d have been disappointed if my Dad had told me he didn’t like Kurt Vonnegut, so maybe it’s just as well I didn’t spend that time sharing my thoughts with him.  It’s a comforting thought that they both, in their own unique voices, said the same things, and left such similar legacies. What my dad said to me a hundred times about politicians, trades union leaders and any other pompous blusterer is neatly summed up in a line from Cats Cradle :  “People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order…..in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.”

It might be comforting to think they are both somewhere else right now having a look down at us all, and having a “wee natter” about the mess we are all making back down here. But the humanist in both of them wouldn’t see things that way. They’ve both been here, done their bit, left behind great memories and a slightly better world after their visit.

“So it Goes”.

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