Tag: Kurt Vonnegut

His Civil Worship

Another native German Heinrich, Heinrich Böll, a great writer, and I became friends even though we had once been corporals in opposing armies. I asked him once what he believed to be the basic flaw in the character of Germans, and he replied “obedience.” When I consider the ghastly orders obeyed by underlings of Columbus, or of Aztec priests supervising human sacrifices, or of senile Chinese bureaucrats wishing to silence unarmed, peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square only three years ago as I write, I have to wonder if obedience isn’t the basic flaw in most of humankind.

-Vonnegut, Sucker’s Portfolio, Episode Seven – The Last Tasmanian, p132

Hey Michael, I’m sorry that I spray painted your campaign sign in 2012. I mean, you still won. Twice even! I was young, angry. Now I’m slightly less young, still angry, but know better than to spray paint things on property that doesn’t belong to me, because I know you believe in the concept of property.

But, really, man, (I can call you man, right? We’re cool?) people who don’t believe in civil disobedience? They’re usually evil. Like dictator evil. Like Stalin evil. Either that, or they are so blinded by privilege that they couldn’t possibly understand that laws aren’t always fair. (I won’t get into the fact that laws themselves are made to uphold privilege for people who hold positions of power, like say, Mayor. We’ll get there in our relationship someday.)

And I don’t think you’re evil. Not yet, anyway.

But please don’t let my minor experimentation in vandalism sour you from civil disobedience altogether! It can be a fun act of friendship and community! Like setting up tents and having a fake campfire and making signs asking for donuts outside of the INAC building to try and help end a little thing called ‘genocide’ in Canada. Sure, Colonialism No More wasn’t illegal, but it didn’t stop your political counterparts from trying to come up with ways to make it so. I know you believe in the marvels of bureaucracy, but sometimes breaking the rules is the only way to get things done.

Civil disobedience is important. It can help people who have less rights, thanks to the laws passed in the Henry Baker Hall, to gain rights. You wouldn’t go as far to say that the segregation laws that Rosa Parks helped end for Blacks in America is illegitimate because she did it in an unlawful way, would you? Wait, so, you strictly opposed even the faintest suggestion that Regina Police Service might have issues with discrimination and racism? Well, then, maybe you wouldn’t like Rosa Parks.

I understand that as the Chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, you worry about people breaking the law. Because if regular citizens started breaking the law to stop injustice, then people like Constable Powers wouldn’t be able to break the law and get away with it too, and then, really, no one would be safe.

In a recent speech, Sylvia McAdam (you may have heard of her, but then again, maybe not), said to look up the legal connotations of the word ‘acquiescence‘. I’d heard the word before, but didn’t know what it meant.

Wikipedia: In law, acquiescence occurs when a person knowingly stands by without raising any objection to the infringement of their rights, while someone else unknowingly and without malice aforethought makes a claim on their rights.

In Sylvia’s case, sometimes ‘raising objection‘ means to actually lay on the road next to her land to stop forestry companies from logging and destroying the place where her people are buried. Because sometimes the lawmakers won’t listen, because the laws are made for the loggers. And if she didn’t stand up for her land rights, they would become someone elses’. If the place where your family was buried, or where your family played golf, or where your family played drums, was going to get torn up and ripped down, would you lay down in the road and stop them, or would you just write a letter to the Mayor?

Mr. Mayor, sometimes laws aren’t right, because sometimes (tough pill to swallow) lawmakers aren’t perfect. And sometimes, even with the aid of dollar-store posterboard and a megaphone right outside of your office on the 23rd (or whatever the hell) floor, you still can’t hear people.

So to say that you disagree with civil disobedience, means that you disagree with all the things that civil disobedience has accomplished. And if that’s the case, I worry for the state of our city, specifically for those who don’t benefit from the laws that you feel are so damn just.

Please reconsider.

Books of the Year: 2015

Wages of Rebellion – Chris Hedges

I do not know if we can build a better society. I do not even know if we will survive as a species. But I do know that these corporate forces have us by the throat. And they have my children by the throat. I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists (Sartre). And this is a fight that in the face of the overwhelming forces against us requires that we follow those possessed by sublime madness, that we become stone catchers and find in acts of rebellion the sparks of life, an intrinsic meaning that lies outside the possibility of success. We must grasp the harshness of reality at the same time as we refuse to allow this reality to paralyze us. People of all creeds and people of no creeds must make an absurd leap of faith to believe, despite all the empirical evidence around us, that the good draws it to the good. The fight for life goes somewhere—the Buddhists call it karma—and in these acts we make possible a better world, even if we cannot see one emerging around us.

-Hedges, Wages of Rebellion, Sublime Madness, p226

If I Fall, If I Die – Michael Christie

Player Piano – Vonnegut

I Wish There Was Something That I Could Quit – Aaron Cometbus

What happened to me? How am I supposed to know? Ask someone else. That woman, she used to be so serious, so purposeful, so outgoing. Now look at her, she’s in pieces. Sleeps all day, then at night she gets drunk and throws herself at trains. Quite a life.

Well, I’ll tell you what happened. Nothing, that’s what. Still the same. Just that now there’s no more reassuring feeling that everything will work out with time and get better. No more faith that if we yell loud enough, someone will listen. No more security even that if we just stay quiet and try to live our little lives, they’ll even let us. Not on our own terms, at least. As if these were even close to my own terms. Taking money from the government, that pretty much admits their claim that I’m crazy. And makes everything I have to say worthless, because who’s paying my rent? Right. But what am I gonna do, get a job at the donut shop instead? Well, maybe. Let’s not rule out anything at this point.

-Aaron Cometbus, I Wish There Was Something That I Could Quit, Ch 12, p31-1

All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin

It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.

-Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed, Chapter3, p 172

Crash Landing On Iduna – Arthur Tofte

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood

Jesus’ Son – Denis Johnson

Compliance or Complaints

The CarpetI used to think selfishness was the basic flaw in most of humankind. That all problems in the world could be cured with a cure for selfishness (see How to Cure a Man, in this award-winning piece of horseshit). This hypothesis is perhaps too flattering to the human species. Selfishness takes the presence of mind to know what a person wants, whether it destroys another human being or not in the process is irrelevant. Selfishness is bold. It is daring enough to step over an injured child on the side of the road to catch a fluttering $5 bill in the tempestuous prairie wind.

Obedience, a compliance or submission to some form of authority, real or imagined, takes nothing. It takes cowardice and brainlessness. It takes cowering in a corner and an inability to think for one’s self. It takes the physical ability to nod.

When I consider the ghastly orders obeyed by underlings of Columbus, or of Aztec priests supervising human sacrifices, or of senile Chinese bureaucrats wishing to silence unarmed, peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square only three years ago as I write, I have to wonder if obedience isn’t the basic flaw in most of humankind.

-Kurt Vonnegut, Sucker’s Portfolio, Episode Seven – The Last Tasmanian, p132

As young mushroom-hair-cutted brats of 1998 (photographed above) we were taught to be compliant. Schools are dens of obedience. Being conditioned to work well with others, to finish projects without accessing the portion of your brain that requires questions that make the teacher do more work. Being conditioned to keep quiet and not to ask stupid questions. Conditioned to see the virtues of obedience as opposed to those of knowledge. To avoid sounding too conspiratorial, I will avoid using the term ‘the system’, but the molding of impressionable sock-footed suburban kids is done intentionally to make a smoother transition into the system of obedience. (Dammit, I said ‘system’.) When we come out as full-fledged adults, procreating in healthy uteri or test-tubes, spending money and buying dinnerware, we are well-prepared to nod our heads when told what to do by the prevailing order.

We are taught to obey politicians, those brave and intellectual souls who do what is best for their country without even a thought about themselves or their friends’ corporate interests. We are taught to obey societal and relational norms and end up reclusive, in debt, and lonely. We are taught to obey the market, the ultimate form of democracy, the system that leaves no one behind. We are taught to obey the status quo.

Without rebellion from the opinion of corporate powers (even as minor as voting yes), souls will continue to be crushed by the forces that originally indoctrinate children with obedience. Without disobedience, creative thought would cease to exist. Without disobedience, those in power will continue to rape the land without end. Without disobedience, the population, you, will be complicit in everything you hate.

In works such as On Power and Ideology and Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system. He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to aggrandize ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression.

-Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class, Chapter 2, p35

Obedience is death.

Deciding which is a worse human abomination, selfishness or obedience, is maybe an impossible task (like Oprah vs Dr. Phil, or politicians vs lawyers) and wouldn’t accomplish much. We are naturally selfish, and this is something that we will never grow out of. We are taught to be obedient, however. It is easier to unlearn something learned than to override a natural instinct.

Blind obedience is foolish. Selfishness is barbaric.
The fool is cowardly, while the barbarian doesn’t know better.

It doesn’t really matter which is worse, it matters that we can acknowledge both in our own person. Let us unlearn, then let us defy natural instinct. Our children’s haircuts will be all the better for it.

Books of the Year: 2012

The following five books were my best reads of the past year, only Days of Destruction Days of Revolt being released in 2012.
Read these or your brain will fall out.

Michael Christie – The Beggar’s Garden

Franz Kafka – Metamorphosis

George Orwell – A Clergyman’s Daughter

Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco – Days of Destruction Days of Revolt

Kurt Vonnegut – God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Honourable Mentions:
Franz Kafka – The Trial
John Steinbeck – Grapes of Wrath

Heavy Hands

It is with a heavy heart that I write this today.

My editor often comments that my writing is heavy-handed. Does this mean that my head is heavy-brained? Or does it mean that my hands are heavy-fingered? I usually don’t know what the hell he’s talking about, so I often have to ask him several times for several explanations. Those things you pick up in University that replace colloquialisms and make you sound smarter. If he just said, “That part sucks, that part sucks marginally less,” I’d get it.

I just finished another Vonnegut book. I have read many, remember few, and still have more to go. He has the ability to write stories about humankind without being heavy-handed. Maybe it is because he seems to use short phrases the make the narrator seem like your quirky middle-school teacher.

Hi ho.

So it goes.

And so on.

Or maybe it is because he is smart enough to convey meaning in properly-placed, simple sentences. Or maybe he was a hard worker. I think he just got lucky.

My heavy-handedness, which I see as the inability to subtly put meaning behind fiction that I am currently experimenting with, may stem from my tendency to over-think things. Or to keep things to myself. Or to think I’m smarter than I am. But let’s not get too heavy in the hand that offers psychological analysis, here.

Recently while in the land of milk and honey and beer and tacos and large bridges and fog, the land of the originators of the fortune cookie, I got two fortune cookies. The first read, ‘Your future is rife with mediocrity.‘ The second; ‘You are to the opposite sex what “OFF” is to mosquitoes.‘ That seems somewhat heavy-handed. Like they took their hand, gripped a brick, and hit my face with it. At least it is the first fortune cookie that ‘hit the nail on the head’ (is that a colloquialism, or an idiom? I just taught myself both words. Self-education). I am still awaiting a sum of money that a fortune cookie promised me in high school. The second San Francisco fortune was maybe the most accurate. I am sitting on a stool wearing both pants and underpants and I can still clearly see my the hairs of my upper thigh through a hole in my crotch the size of a holiday ham. I am repellant to myself most days. Fortune cookies are always heavy-handed, even more so when they are pointing out your foibles.

I guess maybe my editor just wants me to leave my overly philosophical way of analyzing things, my overly logical way of complaining about things, to this blog which has been rife with mediocrity for over six years, and is doomed to the same fate for six years to come. Because I am not eloquent enough to mask my complaints in literary metaphors. My hand is far too heavy for that. Heavy with the weight of the thousands of souls that have been lost from reading my writing.

You are now soulless.

Hi ho.

Human Progress is a Sasquatch

Sections of the few naturally-occurring trees in southern Saskatchewan have been cleared to make roads and paths. These lead to lakes and rivers and adjacent to these lakes and rivers more trees have been cleared for what is known as the commercial campsite. Commercial because you pay for it. Campsite only because that is what they call it. Very rarely is it used for actual camping. I discovered that my idea of camping differs greatly from that of some people, even those I am close to. This past week at Greenwater Provincial Park, each time I walked by a trailer that was nestled nicely beside a seadoo trailer, a boat trailer, a mosquito zapper, a belching generator and a satellite dish, I thanked God that we knocked trees down for these goofballs. But they might ask, as believers in the advancement and intellectual supremacy of the human species, why not bask in our dominance over nature? I would answer that camping is connecting with how humans are supposed to live, reliant on and connected to nature, without distraction, where time doesn’t matter and phones are useless, entranced by the natural and primal thought-nurturing wisps of a late-night fire. But for our neighbours across the way, camping means watching the Olympics on a slightly smaller flat-screen television, slightly closer to a seaweed-ripe body of water, distracted by the shallow and personless characters on a screen. Our campsite of four tents and eight people, a fire and several chairs, a hatchet and a flashlight, compared to their campsite (listed above) shows how much we have advanced technologically as humans, but shows how as humans we remain the exact same.

Human progress. The idea that we as humans can advance through technology, science, industrial efficiency, or mass production to become greater than the previous level attained, whether that means mentally, spiritually and even anatomically. That the advancements in how we do things, as if a catalyzed form of evolution, will propel us into a sort of utopia.

Some may consider our ability to live in absolute comfort anywhere we want Human Progress. Who needs fires and tents and knives when we have generators, fifth-wheel trailers with two bathrooms, and slap-chops? The progression of our systems does not ensure the progression of humans. Our innovations are not making us better humans that are approaching perfection, they are taking us downwards, into an ignorant, illiterate, unaware cell that is not greater than the fire pits, the nomadic life, the simplicity from whence we came.

Progress not only failed to preserve life but it deprived millions of their lives more effectively than had ever been possible before.

Bruno Bettelheim via Chris Hedges’ TruthDig Column

Almost seventy years ago this week, Nagasaki and Hiroshima were bombed. World War II and the few years after, epitomized by the final acts in Japan, are what Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout calls ‘The Finale Rack of so-called Human Progress.” A Finale Rack, the set of fireworks wired together by a pyrotechnician to light as the ‘grand finale’ for the gazing patriots and children. The nuclear bombs were dropped and we have been making them ever since. “It was science, industry and technology that made possible the 20th century’s industrial killing,” Hedges says. It was our ‘Human Progress’ that made possible the destruction of hundreds of thousands of humans.

Apparently, Human Progress is an odd looking creature, like what we can imagine a Sasquatch might look like: floppy ears, hairy face. Non-existent. But if it does exist, what better place to find it than the tree-cleared campgrounds of Southern Saskatchewan. It is probably cozied up in its trailer watching the Rider game with the firepit dead and cold ten-feet away.

“What a relief it was, somehow, to have somebody else confirm what I had come to suspect toward the end of the Vietnam War, and particularly after I saw the head of a human being pillowed in the spilled guts of a water buffalo on the edge of a Cambodian village, that Humanity is going somewhere really nice was a myth for children under 6 years old, like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

-Vonnegut, Hocus Pocus, Chapter 26, p204

The myth of Human Progress, characterized perfectly in contrasting campsites, is eating away at our world. It is tearing apart the environment, making mass-murder more and more accessible, and at the same time we remain the same clueless, occasionally barbaric human beings, only now with larger tools to highlight our cluelessness and barbarism. Instead of whittled willow twigs we have the sturdiness of a bent piece of wire. To complement those, we have wire racks to hold them over the embers. If we get lucky we can use a grill instead of a wire, and if we really show our advancements, we would just use a propane range. Our hotdogs and marshmallows have advanced in the way we cook them, but in the end we are still eating the same damn thing.

Nobody reads.

Nobody reads anymore.

My book, in my mind, is written for the ultimate casual reader. Short chapters. Easy topics. Non-fiction. Penis jokes. Swears. I may start counting the number of people that have told me that they haven’t finished my book. It is large. I’m guessing half of those I sold. And I don’t blame the readers as much as I blame the writer, I can think of thirty-thousand things I’d rather read and I’d suggest you read instead, however the inability to finish a book written by a child who pretends to be adult, strikes me. Makes me sad in both the ‘yeah, I can’t write‘ kind of way, and also the ‘yeah, people can’t read‘ kind of way.

I am in a current struggle editing stories. The phase I dread more than anything. The one that reminds me of why I hated English in school, and why I quit. One person who would think they could see the goddamn rings of Jupiter, a person that I asked to help, and is helping greatly. Stories are difficult enough, and when I write them in hopes that they are suitable for people that don’t like to read, I must do something even greater. Appeal to those that don’t care while making it interesting for those that do. A daunting task even for a practiced wordsmith. I’m hooped. But it was Vonnegut who told me to write for one person.

“If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

Vonnegut said, “Nobody reads anymore” when describing a book I’ve never read. I don’t have the balls to say that phrase with authority. I’m not well-read enough. Later on in his introduction he says that a short story, “because of its physiological and psychological effects on a human being, is more closely related to Buddhist styles of meditation than it is to any other form of narrative entertainment.” Nobody reads because nobody has to. Entertainment has technologically surpassed it. Digitally we are limited to reading infinitesimal posts and our attention span suffers for it. Nobody reads because nobody can bring themselves to sit down for a minute and meditate like a Buddhist.

Vonnegut’s first rule of Creative Writing states that a story should be written so that the reader will not think their time had been wasted. I guess that is where my first book went wrong, and so far, every story I’ve ever written, or anything I’ve ever done. Wasting time in a creative manner is no better than wasting time in a destructive manner. I guess I’m searching out the place where wasting time becomes being productive. Wasting my time and yours. I guess I’m searching the person who decides that.

I hope I’m not that person.

Sleepy Time Me

I am at a sleepy time in my life. My sleeping patterns resemble those of recovering drug addicts and unemployed video-game enthusiasts. I sleep away my spare time to thrust myself into a subconscious entertainment that no one but me can witness, full of Muppets and fight scenes, made intriguing by long, survival-driven plots or political and humanitarian undertones. Sleeping until 10:30, living in a yawn-burdened semi-reality during the day, highlighted by a nap in late afternoon or early evening, and always capped off pleasantly by laying on my side on the frosty hardwood floor. Sleep is my guilty pleasure, taking away from my already minimal amounts of hard work and productivity.

Often I fall into the trap of television and internet, especially when living in a home with the perks of entertainment and nourishment, the tools that aim to stifle creativity. I find myself tired and mentally lazy, sitting in front of a television watching the unwatchable until ten minutes later I snap out of it and try for an activity that doesn’t make me feel guilty. I often try this activity, writing or reading or pool or baking or cooking, and end up laying on the couch, staring upwards, hoping for a Muppet to sweep me away into better realities. I can’t write, so I sleep.

And when I read, I find a piece of writing that makes me choke on my unpreparedness. Unprepared to read something that perfect. (“And love, as we all know,” the Kilraine fortune called after him, “makes the world go ‘round.”  As in Vonnegut’s short story, Money Talks, where a woman’s $12-million fortune tells a man what makes the world go ’round.)  Something I wish so badly that I had written which should motivate me to want to create until I come up with a something that I could deem as worthwhile, but usually motivates me to cursing my own artless endeavours and to lay back down on the couch for a nap to make me forget that I have devoted my past several years to a craft that is impossible to be pleased with. Creation of anything is the gateway to guaranteed insecurity. Sleep is the cure.

Giftedness is a Bluebeard

Listing your talents as an adult is inevitably prideful. In the rare cases where it is necessary, like in a resumé, in a drug abuse support group, or on the adult playground (i.e. social networks), if you come up with a skill too quickly, then you likely think that you are better at it than you actually are. If you hesitate, then you look as if you are trying to be overly modest. If you can’t think of anything, then you are fooling yourself. Moderate giftedness is the immense swimming pool in which most people find themselves wading, and where their fingers and toes become wrinkly from being in for so long.

I maintain the idea that some people have obvious physical skills while others have less obvious human skills. Some can be considered artistic or mechanical or athletic, something that can be measured in items created or matches won, or something apparent that fills a person’s time as an occupation or a hobby. Those with the physical gifts are praised highly for their abilities; they are considered the greatest of our species and are known for making humankind better by continually improving at their trade. Humans with skills that cannot be charted or counted, those with social abilities, an emotional giftedness, are often attributed as ‘nice people’, or ‘very kind’, or ‘fun to be around’. As children, in classroom exercises where we would appreciate our peers with words on a paper, we would write, ‘Nic is very athletic!’ to those that we didn’t think were nice, and ‘Nic is very funny and nice!’ to those that we didn’t think were gifted. Now as adults we praise those with obvious gifts and tell the rest that they are ‘very funny and nice’. The unclassifiable gifts are regarded as less important. It is those with the quiet gifts, the talents that do not boast, that can define a people. Gifts that aren’t physically noticeable but relational, intellectual or emotional competencies are the translucent cousins to the categorizable gifts of the often labeled ‘talented’ humans. If you don’t have an obvious physical talent, then I will ensure you with a motherly kiss on the forehead that you are still special and gifted. That although we may not be noticeably appreciated as often as the musician or the cook, that we are of equal acclaim in the fabrication of our species.

Those of us with moderate talents, whether obvious talents or not, know of several acquaintances who seem to have incredible abilities in all things. People that can triumph every sport, can play several obscure musical instruments, can write all forms of literature, can speak seven languages, can bake an exquisite brie, can grow immaculate facial hair, have a glowing and linear smile without the help of dental cosmetics, can do a backflip on flat ground and are a great lay. And sometimes they are even extremely decent human beings. Obviously we always idolize these people, shake our heads at their dumb luck and good genes because they are somehow instinctually good at many of the obvious skills, and often better than we are at something we have spent a whole life practicing.

The normal: the ones with moderate abilities in one or two things and the ones with the gifts that are not immediately identifiable can still be great with an understanding that greatness isn’t a list of abilities and talents, but rather that greatness is humility in those gifts of whatever degree in whatever domain.

I was obviously born to draw better than most people, just as the widow Berman and Paul Slazinger were obviously born to tell stories better than most people can. Other people are obviously born to sing and dance or explain the stars in the sky or do magic tricks or be great leaders or athletes, and so on.

I think that could go back to the time when people had to live in small groups of relatives—maybe fifty or a hundred people at the most. And evolution or God or whatever arranged things genetically, to keep the little families going, to cheer them up, so that they could all have somebody to tell stories around the campfire at night, and somebody else to paint pictures on the walls of the caves, and somebody else who wasn’t afraid of anything and so on.

That’s what I think. And of course a scheme like that doesn’t make sense anymore, because simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions.

The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap-dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an “exhibitionist.”

How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, “Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!”

-Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard, Chapter 9, p74-5

A Purpose of Life

I know a purpose of life. I found it on the couch yesterday. The purpose was not written on the couch in the form of a hot sauce stain, nor was it lost under the cushions like a clandestine gathering of quarters and dimes. But rather, I was sitting on the couch when I found it. I didn’t have to search very hard considering I was only away from the couch for about three hours the entire day. Purpose is slow. I didn’t have to search very hard at all, the purpose of life was actually mailed to me with a pair of shoes several months back. I’ve been carrying a purpose of life in my backpack around the continent with me and it took me at least six months to sort it all out. It was in a book.

Today, I found the purpose of life to be this:

 “It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, Epilogue, p313

Detail oriented people will notice the difference between the grammatical articles, definite and indefinite. This quote employs the indefinite article, aThe versus a. It would be neglectful of us to search for purpose as if there was only one to be found. The the. Vonnegut found one purpose and shared it through a novel. I can find one through reading his novel and sharing it with you. Finding a purpose doesn’t mean that it is easy to act out, and the fact that you found it doesn’t mean that you were already good at it. The fact that you aren’t good at it is maybe the way that you found the purpose in the first place, through noticing your own lack of ability in it. Purpose must be found knowing that you will find it again, or find a different one later.

Tomorrow, the purpose of life could be this:

“..all I can do is be friendly and keep calm and try and have a nice time till it’s over.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, Chapter 9, p202

I can decide what a purpose of life is as often as I want, and you’ll have no choice but to read it. I can end the world today and start it back up like a gas burning stove. I can defy the laws of physics, I can reinvent how relationships work, I can claim to be the creator of the moon. I can do all this, not because I claim to be a god, but because I have a pen and a paper. Because of fiction. Because I have a blog. Because any asshole with a website has that opportunity. I am not spending time presenting my beliefs as the purposes of life, nor am I debating the legitimacy of those presented by Vonnegut, but I am simply offering the idea that purpose can be discovered, and when it is, it should be shared. But it takes more than a man and his medium to find a purpose, and if he shares that he found the purpose of life, then he is presenting the purpose as incomplete, or he is be doing it for egotistic reasons.

Monday, the purpose of life could be to realize this:

“The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody,” she said, “Would be to not be used for anything by anybody.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan, Chapter 9, p202

I have always wanted to have the authority and knowledge to definitively say what the meaning of life is, regardless of whether it were true or not, or whether it would be possible for a human being to know this anyway, or if there is an sort of purpose or meaning at all. I want to be a prophet or a man of great influence with the authority to write even a single purpose of life. If I discover even a single truth in my day and feel able enough to communicate it to even one single person, then I will be comfortable with what I’ve accomplished.

Over the past two years, I have compiled a document of about twenty pages of significant quotes from books I have read. Sorted by author, categorized according to topic, this document is full of truths. It is full of different purposes of life, eloquently laid out by men and women of great ability; sorted and stacked by me. To claim there to be solely one purpose to life would be neglecting the great truths said by the great people of the past. It is impossible to sum up the purpose of human life in a single phrase, or single paragraph, or single book. But we can at least remember the times that we find a single purpose, and keep searching for more.

Next week the purpose of life could be this.

But I hope not.