Monday, May 05, 2008

The horseshit approach to living your life

Kurt Vonnegut, in an interview with Playboy:

Vonnegut: You understand, of course, that everything I say is horseshit.
Playboy: Of course.
Vonnegut Well, we do live our lives simultaneously. That a fact. You are here as a child and as an old man. I recently visited a woman who hs Hodgkin’s disease. She has somewhere between a few months and a couple of years to live, and she told me that she was living her life simultaneously now, living all the moments of it.
Playboy: It all seems paradoxical.
Vonnegut: That’s because what I've just said to you is horseshit. But it's a useful, comforting sort of horseshit, you see? That's what I object to about preachers. They don't say anything to make anybody any happier, when there are all these neat lies you can tell. And everything is a lie, because our brains are two-bit computers, and we can't get very high-grade truths out of them. But as far as improving the human condition goes, our minds are certainly up to that.

That Kilgore Trout, what a tease, eh? But he's right, of course. We do - or can - live our lives simultaneously. That's what memory is for. That's what hope is for. The two curses or joys of the human condition. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer's. Those people fall out of time. They live in their own space, peopled by the future and the past and the present all at once. Who's to say it's any worse a place than this here now? Certainly, my gran was perfectly happy talking about a man on the roof opposite, who wasn't there in my world but undoubtedly was in hers. The old Calvinists would have tried to force her out of her delusion: only the straight and narrow, the strictly true will do. They can't leave a moment to assert itself and decide what's best. They can't allow the luxury of comfort, of illusion, of retreat into safety. Sometimes the only human thing to do is to leave people alone. They find their own way through the maze of it all.

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