“Don’t look at me. I just got here myself.”

My young friend, Jonathan, gave me the gift of Kurt Vonnegut’s If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? for Christmas. I enjoyed it immensely. I found Vonnegut’s musings on life comforting and reassuring. Vonnegut reminded me that the times we are now entering are not any worse that the times that have come before. And he assured me that – although I maybe can’t fix the whole world – I can, at least, make my little corner of it a more humane and beautiful place.

“I apologize because of the terrible mess the planet is in. But it has always been a mess. There have never been any ‘Good Old Days,’ there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, ‘Don’t look at me. I just got here myself.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut

 “Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: ‘Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut, quoting his son, Mark.

“The teacher… asked me one time, ‘What is it artists do?… They do two things,’ he said, ‘First they admit they can’t straighten out the whole universe. And then second, they make at least one little part of it exactly as it should be. A blob of clay, a square of canvas, a piece of paper, or whatever.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“I suggest to you Adams and Eves that you set as your goals the putting of some small part of the planet into something like safe and sane and decent order. There’s a lot of cleaning up to do. There’s a lot of rebuilding to do, both spiritual and physical. And, again, there’s going to be a lot of happiness. Don’t forget to notice!”
– Vonnegut speaking at Butler University.

“My politics in a nutshell: let’s stop giving corporations and newfangled contraptions what they need and get back to giving human beings what we need.”
– Kurt vonnegut

***

“How about Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

‘Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth,
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy,
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the children of God…’

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”
– Kurt Vonnegut

***

“Revenge provokes revenge which provokes revenge which provokes revenge – forming an unbroken chain of death and destruction linking nations of today to barbarous tribes of thousands and thousands of years ago.

“We may never dissuade leaders of our nation or any other nation from responding vengefully, violently, to every insult or injury. In this Age, the Age of Television, they will continue to find irresistible the temptation to become entertainers, to compete with movies by blowing up bridges and police stations and factories and so on…

“But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement… And we can teach our children and our grandchildren to do the same – so that they, too, can never be a threat to anyone.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

***

“When my father was dying, he said, ‘I want to thank you, because you’ve never put a villain in any of your stories.’ The secret ingredient in my books is, there has never been a villain.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“…I would like to infect people with humane ideas before they’re able to defend themselves.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Culture is a gadget; it’s something we inherit. And you can fix it the way you fix a broken oil burner. You can fix it continuously.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Persuasive guessing has been at the core of leadership for so long for all of human experience so far that it is wholly unsurprising that most of the leaders of this planet, in spite of all the information that is suddenly ours, want the guessing to go on… Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting. They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they could be right. It isn’t the gold standard that they want to put us back on; they want something even more basic than that. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard again.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Our founding fathers never promised us that this would be a painless form of Government, that adhering to the Bill of Rights would invariably be delightful. Nor are Americans proud of avoiding pain at all costs… So it is not too much to ask of Americans that they not be censors, that they run the risk of being deeply wounded by ideas so that we may all be free. If we are wounded by an ugly idea, we must count it as part of the cost of freedom and, like American heroes in the days gone by, bravely carry on.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“So the advice I give myself at the age of 71 is the best advice I could have given myself in 1940, when detraining for the first time in Ithaca, having come all the way from Indianapolis: ‘Keep your hat on. We may wind up miles from here.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“And here’s what I think the truth is: we are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, we are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

“Much has been written about the effects on institutions of higher learning of the sudden influx of veterans after my war. One thing it did was bamboozle many teachers whose authority and glamour was based on their having seen more life and the world than their students had. In seminars I would occasionally try to talk about something I had observed about human beings while a soldier, as a prisoner of war, as a family man. I had a wife and kid then. This turned out to be very bad manners, like coming to a crap game with loaded dice. No fair.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

***

Kurt Vonnegut speaking to Joe Heller, author of *Catch-22*:

“‘Joe, how does it make you feel to realize that only yesterday our host probably made more money than Catch-22, one of the most popular books of all time, has grossed world-wide over the last forty years?’

“Joe said to me, ‘I have something he can never have.’

“I said, ‘What’s that, Joe?’

“And he said, ‘The knowledge that I’ve got enough.'”
– Kurt Vonnegut

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5 thoughts on ““Don’t look at me. I just got here myself.”

  1. Thank you so much for compiling and sharing this. Reminded me that I should stay in touch with Kurt! I shared on FB today.
    Have stayed in touch with MBE and so grateful for her life and work. And I like what Eckhart T has to say, too.
    Now look forward to staying in touch with you!

  2. Pingback: Bits and Clips for January 2017 | Polly Castor

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