Friday, April 13, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

About thirty-six years ago, as a struggling young college student taking the wrong major at the wrong school while the country was fighting the wrong war in Vietnam, my English Professor, Dr. Winters, assigned his students to write a report on the following book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  The book was, if you can excuse the term, a revelation.  The book answered none of the questions about life and death and meaning and purpose that probably pre-occupied many others in similar positions then (and now) but it did something better: it made me face those questions.

I did not understand, at the time, the point of view from which Kurt Vonnegut's Jr.'s novels were written.  It wasn't until many years later that I discovered humanism. I then quickly understood that a life stance based on reason and compassion as opposed to faith and obedience had a much better chance of making the world a better place and bringing happiness to oneself and to others.  Humanism also had the advantage of being reality-based.  When I found that Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was the honorary president of the American Humanist Society, I was surprised and not surprised at the same time.  It all made sense.

Listen: Kurt Vonnegut would say this:  “I am a humanist which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.”  So it goes. 

Thank you Mr. Vonnegut.

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