Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Is Up In Heaven Now

Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.

We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, "Isaac is up in Heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group 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.

I discovered Vonnegut in high school. I couldn't tell you what book I started with, but chances are it was Slaughterhouse Five. I read most of his works but stopped after Galapagos. No particular reason, I just didn't feel like reading him anymore.

A few months ago, Vonnegut appeared on The Daily Show and rekindled my interest in his work. I checked A Man Without a Country out of the library & re-discovered what an amazing writer he was. His style is deceptively simple. He could say amazingly powerful things in a few straight-forward sentences. I intended to revisit his books, but I never did. Maybe his death will get me going on that.

Good-bye, Kurt. You'll be missed.

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.'

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