Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007)

Everyday, people are born and people die. So it goes.

Last Wednesday, we lost the author who coined the phrase, “So it goes.” Kurt Vonnegut died at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital at 9:45 PM at the age of 84. He had been hospitalized for weeks after sustaining brain injuries following a fall at his East Manhattan home. So it goes.

There’s really not much opinion to give about something like this. It is sad to lose anyone, anytime. So all I can do is pay tribute to a great man.

Vonnegut witnessed the death of thousands in the Dresden fire-bombing in World War II, the basis of one of his most famous works, “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Vonnegut portrayed his humanist philosophies in this novel, showing us that no matter what side you are on, death and war are terrible things. He accepted the mortality of human beings, but questioned the morality, or lack thereof, that people can display in the darkest of times. There was no military goal to achieve by bombing Dresden. Various books have been written on this topic. Another little-known fact is that the firebombing of Dresden killed more people than the atomic bombs did at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. So it goes.

But Vonnegut’s genius came from the way he told his stories. All of his novels, though often pessimistic and dark, are quite funny. Vonnegut even made his own little illustrations to include in his books, something that endears him to many of his readers. His imagination was endless. From time travel to a substance that apocalyptically turns water to ice, Vonnegut’s stories are fun to read over and over, albeit somewhat ‘out there.’

I was always an avid reader, but his fluid style and often hilarious stories inspired something else in me. Maybe it was the deep philosophy he ingrained so beautifully into the books that so many people devour in just days. Reading his work, you can laugh, be happy, sad, angry, basically run the whole gamut of emotions from one page to another. Today, I am an English major because of Kurt Vonnegut. I want to follow in his footsteps and be a writer because of “Cat’s Cradle” and “Kilgore Trout.”

With global warming, nuclear war, famine, and so many other ugly things threatening our planet, it’s hard to be optimistic about life these days. But we still have so much to fight for. If not an idea, then just the pleasure of reading a great book, or seeing a concert, or being with friends and family.

These are the things that make us feel alive, and we must never lose sight of the beauty in these things.

“When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetic it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
from the floor of the Grand Canyon,
‘It is done.’
People did not like it here.”

-Kurt Vonnegut

1922 – 2007

“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.” He thought this would make a great epitaph for his grave. So it goes.

Patrick Pi