wisdom from kurt vonnegut

kurt vonnegut: practice art quote

from If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?, a collection of Vonnegut’s graduation speeches:

[Quoting a teacher of his] ‘What is it artists do? They do two things. 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.’

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.

I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.

I’m talking to TV celebrities in airplanes again. Hey, you monstrously overpaid electronic twerps: ‘Down here’ [in the Midwest] is where the real lives are led. ‘Down here’ is where the real work gets done.

Our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees.

It is a tragedy, perhaps, that human beings can get so much energy and enthusiasm from hate.

Every act of war, every act of violence…shows contempt for Jesus Christ.

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,’ and so on. Not exactly planks in a Republican platform.

Being merciful, it seems to me, is the only good idea we have received so far.

Let’s stop giving corporations and newfangled contraptions what they need, and get back to giving human beings what we need.

Socialism is no more an evil word than Christianity.

Notice when you’re happy, and know when you’ve got enough.

Joe said to me, “I have something [a billionaire] can never have: the knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

When things go well for days on end, it is a hilarious accident.

Do not use semicolons. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.

I also love his theory that there are 6 seasons instead of 4, “and this may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time.”

  • January-February: Winter
  • March-April: Unlocking (“What else could April be?”)
  • May-June: Spring
  • July-August: Summer
  • September-October: Fall
  • November-December: Locking


Postscript: I haven’t read any Vonnegut before (but feel like I should read Slaughterhouse-Five to just, like, be aware). Sounds like he was a cool cat who was a socialist and anti-violence. But apparently he wrote some sexist stuff about women being stupid sex objects, as well as a disturbing, pro-rape short story called “Welcome to the Monkey House.” Blech! WTF, man?! I guess like most “heroes” he’s flawed. A good reminder that people can create inspiring art but nobody’s perfect and they shouldn’t be blindly idolized. Except maybe for Janelle Monae.


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