Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Awesome Hair -- Awesome Brain: Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut deserves recognition for his peerless contributions to contemporary English literature. He wrote science-fiction books for everyone, not just book worms and math nerds. Vonnegut saw no reason why a construction worker or bus driver wouldn't want to read a book about another planet. Also, he had extremely enthusiastic hair and a quietly assertive mustache.

I learned a valuable lesson about suffering from Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. He bounces from moment to moment randomly: one moment he's a thirty-five year old man, the next he is a baby. This curious circumstance allows him to experience his life as an unbound accumulation of experiences, rather than a linear narrative.

In a linear narrative, like a book, the end always seems like the most important thing. But its not. That the book exists at all is the most important thing. The same is true in life. Suffering is certainly a part of our experience, but it does not define our experience. Even if it occurs at the very end. The present moment always seems like the most important, but that is only because we are stuck in time. The most important moment in life is all of them.

That's what Billy Pilgrim taught me while living in a zoo on planet Trafalmadore.

Thanks Kurt!

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