If I could have a glass of whiskey with 3 people, dead or alive, they would be Marcus Aurelius, Jon Stewart, and Kurt Vonnegut. Without knowing it each of these men has affected my life. As today would have been Kurt Vonnegut’s 95th birthday I wanted to pay my respects by sharing some of my favorite words of his.
To be honest, I’m not sure when I fell in love with Kurt Vonnegut and his writing. I remember reading Slaughterhouse Five and while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t blown away by it. As I got into literature and writing I kept coming across more and more of his work and views. I read more about his views on life, religion, America, the world as a whole, and how to become a better writer.
He was openly critical of a lot of ideas and was never afraid to go against the popular opinion if he didn’t agree with it. He was a man who had seen war and knew how terrible it was. He had seen what fear and blind loyalty could do to people and the world as a whole. He witnessed the destruction of Dresden first hand and never wanted to see anything like it repeated. He taught me what humanism was and that being a good person is an achievable goal even if you aren’t religious.
For years he has inspired me and his words have given direction when my path seemed unclear. Though I wouldn’t consider him my favorite author he is one of the people I would have loved to meet. Happy 95th birthday to one of the wisest men who ever lived.
- “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.”
- “Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”
- “So it goes”
- “Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.”
- “If you can do no good, at least do no harm.”
- “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”
- “Self-taught, are you?” Julian Castle asked Newt.
“Isn’t everybody?” Newt inquired.
“Very good answer.”
- “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
- “If you would be unloved and forgotten, be reasonable.”
- “The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.”
- “In nonsense is strength”
- “It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done”
- “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.”
- “You hate America, don’t you?
That would be as silly as loving it,’ I said. ‘It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me. It’s no doubt a great flaw in my personality, but I can’t think in terms of boundaries. Those imaginary lines are as unreal to me as elves and pixies. I can’t believe that they mark the end or the beginning of anything of real concern to a human soul. Virtues and vices, pleasures and pains cross boundaries at will.”
- “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”
- “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”
- “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
- “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”
- “And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”
- “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
- “. . . but the Universe is an awfully big place. There is room enough for an awful lot of people to be right about things and still not agree.”
- “The function of the artist is to make people like life better than they have before.”
- “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
- “Never trust a survivor until you know how they survived.”
- “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”