Inspiringly self-assured, Kurt Vonnegut, author of one of my favourite books (The Slaughterhouse Five, if you must know), has taught many writers how to write; or rather, instructed them as to how plot can unfold. As mundane and repetitive that storytelling may seem from this video, there is clearly more to it, and they are other ways of closing the trap door. As you know.
Vonnegut also said the most wonderful thing that I hold close to my heart when I am too tired to do anything but watch youtube clips of my favourite Men of Letters:
“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Thank you Kurt.
This sentiment is the purest stroke of optimism that can emerge from a logical discourse on the meaning of our lives — one that, not considered well enough, threatens to end prematurely upon the emptiness of life and mind. This to me is why this kid, who killed himself on the basis that it was the most logically sound reaction to life, was wrong — tragic, brilliantly well-reasoned, but wrong nonetheless.
On paper, most of us will lead disappointing lives, inasmuch as we don’t tend to attain the goals we set for ourselves throughout it. Optimism, therefore, is crucial to our existence. Optimism even in spite of the truth might make us deluded, but it also makes life bearable and even enjoyable. We did not choose life — that was out of our hands.
There is a circle of thought that I find myself in when I realise that my inability to put blind faith in a god, who quite frankly seems to be a bit of an asshole anyway, puts me in a lonely position. I look around me, and the world is a cruel place. The universe is chaotic, meaningless. But it is also mysterious, and it is quite pretty if you squint and turn your head sideways. I look out of my window at a white mass of sky-earth, in which the skeletal trees float in the limbo of winter, and I am happy that it must all be worth something. To make ones own meaning is far better than swallowing someone else’s.
A friend of mine recently said that it is crazy that half the world is drunk half of the time. I said that it is necessary to be high in one form or another in order to deal with living, especially for the sensitive among us. Living, not being. Being is the beautiful part, as Kundera said: “Being: Becoming a fountain, a fountain on which the universe falls like warm rain.”
Time travel is probably my favourite science fiction theme. The Slaughterhouse Five is about fate, and it laughs at all of the major tragedies in recent history in this context of everything being foretold. It is interesting to me that someone who, taking the fatalist thread to heart, found folly in most things, was so loved – is so loved – by so many. And this is because he simplifies life, and he laughs at life, while giving it a bright, introspective meaning — one that makes us feel altogether warm and fuzzy about the simple and unerring fact of our existence.