Thursday, April 12, 2007

Goodbye Kurt

At Fourteen years old I had an enormous crush on Jesus. I went to Church services and the Sunday school for teens every Sunday without my parents even asking me. The Presbyterian Church was the biggest church in Menlo Park, California. If you were a pre-teen looking to do exciting things in this sleepy town the Presbyterians could provide you with prayer camps, field trips, and teen groups where you can meet boys outside of school without making your parents nervous. One of my best-friends would put notes in my bible marking her favorite bible passages.

My parents refused to have me baptised as a baby or young child. My mother was a catholic-Jew and my dad, a self-proclaimed Atheist. So at fourteen, I got baptised along side my friend and later we would joke in our twenties that baptism really didn't turn out how we expected. She turned into a hard-core New York business-girl and I was a hippie-chick.

It was as soon as I got baptised that the spell began to be broken. This church told me that my catholic mother was going to hell. A christian youth leader declared to me that she didn't care if there was a nuclear war because Jesus was going to save her. Genuinely shocked and disturbed, I told her off. At prayer camp, I was the only one not to sob hysterically when giving myself to Jesus, which made me feel very awkward being there alone with sobbing teens. Then I realized that a lot of the kids in my teen Sunday school were not very nice people. I discovered that the nicest kids were not going to Church or were of a different faith. To me, they actually lived how I thought Jesus would want us to live. I became adrift being a Christian without a church at the age of 15 or 16. I discovered Bertrand Russell's agnostic writings and skipped Spanish to discuss philosophy at a park near the Menlo Park library.

Then I found Vonnegut.

"People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God." - Vonnegut

An elder brother of another best-friend had been allowed to do a term paper on his books and I heard Vonnegut was cool since his books had been banned. I love banned books. Vonnegut's humanism spoke to me and was a perfect match for my teen angst over humanity. He was like this uncle who pulled you aside and showed you the lay of the land and showed you a different way to look at the world with all its blemishes and beauty.

"Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything." - Vonnegut

I got his humor.

Life is full of asterisks.

When I was travelling through Europe I was reading "Jailbird" on a double-decker bus at the age of Eighteen. Since then there have been other authors and a growing sophistication that being a follower of Christ doesn't need a church and doesn't mean I cannot also be a free-thinker. I still dig Jesus, but we have a more mature relationship.

It has been a long time since I have read Kurt's books. I have most of his books on my book shelf and I will have to crack them open again.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has made this world a better place because of his writing and of who he was as a man. His passing makes me sad, but I can bring him back by reading his words. How lovely.

Goodbye Kurt.

"If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who." -- "Cat's Cradle"

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