I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around,
and don't let anybody tell you different

-Kurt Vonnegut

Welcome to what once was Judge Jonathan. This blog is dead. Please click here to continue. (Or here, if you really insist.)


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Quote from the Cradle

Some of you may have noticed that my ‘Welcome to Judge Jonathan’ text has been replaced over there on the left by a killer quote of my favourite author, Kurt Vonnegut. (Don't worry, it'll be back at some point - it's too cool for me to delete it. And you all know I'm too cool for school.)

Anyway, a couple of days ago, my flatmate asked me if I had a good book for her – she was bored. I took out Cat’s Cradle without really thinking too much. It had been, I believe, almost two years since I had last read it. When asked about my favourite Vonneguts, I always used to mention Slaughterhouse 5 and Hocus Pocus, but somehow failed to mention Cat’s Cradle. God knows why I forgot just how amazing this book is - but as my flatmate chuckled, giggled and shook her head in amazement at how an author can tell what is essentially a most depressing story about the human condition (and which involves no less than the end of the world) so light-heartedly and with so much humour and - and this is what makes Vonnegut great - sheer absurdity, I remembered that this one is definitely up there with Vonnegut's best.

Now I had planned to give you a long description of the book, and get out twenty quotes from it to prove my point, but I do understand the limitations of blogging - there's only that much you can make your readers (provided you have some) do. So instead of overdoing it (and possibly ruining the book for you if you do decide to read it at some point), let me leave you with one simple quote. It's a little childish poem Vonnegut put into the mouth of a LSE-educated calypso singer-turned-guru named Bokonon. (Tell me that character alone isn't genius.)

For me, this short poem manages to describe in a few words our eternal quest to understand what is around us, to understand the world - when we all know, deep down, that we will never be able to, because our human brains try to trick us into believing there is a purpose, a meaning, for all of it. Evolution made us smart enough to suspect that all life has no purpose; but just as our brains will never fully be able to grasp the concept of infinity (or, for that matter, the true implications of a finite universe), we will never be able to fully realize what it means to live in a world without meaning or purpose. We can rationalize it; we will never understand it. And that, in a nutshell, is why man invented religion, ideologies, and perhaps most of all, I'm afraid to say, science.

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, "Why, why, why?"

Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.

See? Now I did write half an essay on this book. Ah well, I can't help myself. Final thought: Read Cat's Cradle, or at least the Books of Bokonon (especially the final sentence).


Chris said...

Do you know Dürrenmatt?

Judge Jonathan said...

No, I haven't had the chance to meet him in person, if that's what you mean.

Chris said...

Since he's already been pushing up daisies for a while now, that's not quite what I meant ... ;-)

More specifically: DId you read any of his works apart from the formal stage plays? What you're saying about Vonnegut strongly reminds me of him.

Judge Jonathan said...

Yeah I figured that was what you were implying, but I couldn't resist...

I actually haven't read very much of his stuff at all. One thing I do remember is listening to a tape of his continuation of Sophocles' 'Oedipus'. Although that must have been 4 years ago, I do remember it was both hilarious and clever (obviously) - both of which can be said about Vonnegut's work. Would be worth looking up.

Anything in particular you'd recommend? I have a friend who is a big Dürrenmatt expert but proudly refuses to read my blog, unfortunately - though I might be able to convince him to join in on this one...

Chris said...

You should be studying, not asking for book suggestions! ;-)

But I'll supply them gladly anyway: Stoffe I - III. Der Winterkrieg in... (damn, somebody has not returned that!), Turmbau, Stoffe IV-IX, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Schriftsteller und...

Have fun!

Judge Jonathan said...

Thanks, I will - after exams, of course...

Chris said...

What will you - study? That may be a bit late after the exams ...

Sorry, couldn't resist that one either! ;-)

So, any progress on your Blackadder research lately?