Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. So it goes.
Vonnegut’s writing is a wonderful mixture of dry wit, philosophy, different literary styles (including science fiction, which is how I discovered his writing) and playful use of language and writing techniques.
Reviews of his work often contain the words ‘cynic’ and ‘pessimist’. I’ve never understood that.
Vonnegut was an idealist. His belief in human goodness is equal to that of a John Steinbeck, whose denizens of “Cannery Row” and “Tortilla Flat” create havoc out of the good of their heart. And we like those characters, because, they try. And when their actions create chaos, they try again.
Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?”
Like all idealists, Vonnegut was often disappointed. Disappointment is not important, it’s trying to do good that’s important. And trying again when you fail. That’s why we’re here, as Elliot Rosewater would say.
“Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closes to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules – and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress.” – Ransom k. Fern in “The Sirens of Titan”.
Read his books. And try. That’s all we can do.
“I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of regards or punishments after I’m dead. My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves “Freethinkers,” which is the same sort of thing. My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, “If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?”
I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great, spectacularly prolific writer and scientist, Dr. Isaac Asimov in that essentially functionless capacity. At an A.H.A. memorial service for my predecessor I said, “Isaac is up in Heaven now.” That was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. It rolled them in the aisles. Mirth! Several minutes had to pass before something resembling solemnity could be restored.” – Kurt Vonnegut