Friday, April 13, 2007

Lucky Mud

Kurt Vonnegut died on Wednesday.

I haven't read a Vonnegut novel in years, but upon hearing of his death I picked up Cat's Cradle and realized just how deeply I'd imbibed him in my youth. As a teenager I drank deep of Slaughterhouse Five (or The Children's Crusade); Player Piano; The Sirens of Titan; Welcome to the Monkey House; Happy Birthday, Wanda June; Mother Night; God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater; and Breakfast of Champions. Even after all these years the rhythm of his writing, the style as well as the substance, was so familiar yet utterly fresh.

I am supposed to be doing some writing on a project of my own right now, but I could not let his death pass without comment. I suppose I could quote the Tralfamadorians and say, simply, "So it goes." I could refer to the comment Billy Pilgrim, the hero of Slaughterhouse-Five, says of himself at one point, that "he was doing nothing less now . . . then prescribing corrective lenses for Earthling souls."

But there's a passage in Cat's Cradle which I've long hoped will be said during my own memorial service someday; I hope someone is saying it in his. It's the recitation from the Bokononist Last Rites:

God made mud.
God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, ‘Sit up!’
‘See all I’ve made,’ said God, ‘the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars.’
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God!
Nobody but You could have done it, God! I certainly couldn’t have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor.
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!
Good night.

Good night, Mr. Vonnegut. Sleep well. And thank's for the glasses.

In Gassho,


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