Kurt Vonnegut died today at 84. We have lost more than a novelist, playwright and essayist. Vonnegut was a moral philosopher who provided Americans with a moral compass in chaotic times. Everything he wrote addressed the same question, “What meaning can we make of an absurd universe; one filled with human created catastrophes, one after another? For Vonnegut there were only two options, suicide or kindness and laughter.
In 1992, he took the title of honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having taken over from friend and fellow novelist Isaac Asimov. In an interview last year he explained what it meant to be a humanist.
“Being a humanist means that you try to behave as decently, as honourably, as you can without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. When we had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, I spoke at it and said at one point, ‘Isaac is up in heaven now’. It was the funniest thing I could think of to say to an audience of humanists. Believe me, it worked – I rolled them in the aisles. If I should ever die, god forbid, I hope people will say, ‘Kurt is up in heaven now’. That’s my favourite joke.”
Well, Kurt is up in heaven now. 🙂
If you are not very familiar with Vonnegut and his influence on American culture over the last 50 years, there is a nice tribute in the New York Times. . . and so it goes. . .