Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut is in Heaven Now

I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, "Isaac is up in heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, "Kurt is up in heaven now." That's my favorite joke.

The wise old humanist has died. He wrote in a way that could break your heart because, I think, humanity had broken his. His writing had as much impact on me in my teens and twenties as probably anybody's. Maybe it had more impact on me than most of the people in my life.

Some quotes:
Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.

And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

Where is home? I've wondered where home is, and I realized, it's not Mars or someplace like that, it's Indianapolis when I was nine years old. I had a brother and a sister, a cat and a dog, and a mother and a father and uncles and aunts. And there's no way I can get there again.

Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.

(talking about when he tells his wife he's going out to buy an envelope) Oh, she says well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.

I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.

"Drawn crudely in the dust of three window-panes were a swastika, a hammer and sickle, and the Stars and Stripes. I had drawn the three symbols weeks before, at the conclusion of an argument about patriotism with Kraft. I had given a hearty cheer for each symbol, demonstrating to Kraft the meaning of patriotism to, respectively, a Nazi, a Communist, and an American. 'Hooray, hooray, hooray,' I'd said."

…I have wanted to give Iraq a lesson in democracy—because we’re experienced with it, you know. And, in democracy, after a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote. And, at the beginning of democracy, is that quite a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. And that’s what’s going on now.

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.

I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.

If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have nerve enough to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts.

If there is a god, he sure hates people. That’s all I can say.

During the Vietnam War, Abbie Hoffman announced that the new high was banana peels taken rectally. So then FBI scientists stuffed banana peels up their asses to find out if this was true or not.

All male writers, incidentally, no matter how broke or otherwise objectionable, have pretty wives. Somebody should look into this.

I think William Shakespeare was the wisest human being I ever heard of. To be perfectly frank, though, that's not saying much. We are impossibly conceited animals, and actually dumb as heck. Ask any teacher. You don't even have to ask a teacher. Ask anybody. Dogs and cats are smarter than we are.

The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.


Many more.

6 comments:

The Anti Atheist said...

I am afraid that as an atheist you will have to admit that Kurt Vonnegut no longer exists.

Of course he never, did, that was an illusion because what was called Kurt Vonnegut was simply a serious of biochemical reactions in a meat brain.

But anyway, its all deat matter now.

So, no matter.

beepbeepitsme said...

That we continue to exist in the thoughts and minds of those who liked us, loved us or hated us - is perhaps enough for some of us.

Jack's Shack said...

His writing had as much impact on me in my teens and twenties as probably anybody's. Maybe it had more impact on me than most of the people in my life.

Now we know who to blame. ;)

hyppotalmud said...

Kurt is not alive but the numbers which he was made out of are eternal. ;)

Ezzie said...

Heh. :)

gabe said...

great stuff here. i'm still smarting over the loss. putting together a tribute in brooklyn...hope some readers here are nearby. would love to keep talking. psyched you included my favorite quote about time in SH5. amazing...