The Last Rites of Bokononism

I always felt that Kurt Vonnegut’s dim view of humanity was both accurate and unnecessarily bleak.  Yes, the universe is most definitely uncaring and mankind is indeed a bunch of animals that, for some unexplained reason, are or believe themselves to be conscious.  That doesn’t lead directly down the road to nihilism that Vonnegut so thoroughly seemed to tread.

I was reminded of the appeal of the essence of the Vonnegut philosophy when I was lead via Daniel Gray’s excellent blog to the Books of Bokonon, a website which lays out all the writings of spiritual leader Bokonon included in Cat’s Cradle.  While the whole website is worth a look, I was particularly taken with the Last Rites of Bokononism:

God made mud.
God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up!”
“See all I’ve made,” said God, “the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars.”
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
Nice going, God.
Nobody but you could have done it, God! I certainly couldn’t have.
I feel very unimportant compared to You.
The only way I can feel the least bit important is to think of all the mud that didn’t even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor!
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
I loved everything I saw!
Good night.
I will go to heaven now.
I can hardly wait…
To find out for certain what my wampeter* was…
And who was in my karass**…
And all the good things our karass did for you.

*wampeter – one’s (and one’s karass’s) purpose in life
**karass – the team of people with whom one unwittingly does the Lord’s work

While it does my heart good to consider myself saying sayonara to the world in such a way, that’s not the best quote that Vonnegut gives to Bokonon.  For my money that would be

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.


~ by Joshing on March 18, 2008.

4 Responses to “The Last Rites of Bokononism”

  1. im christian
    bokononism is foma

    • Exactly. Bokonon says at the begining of his scriptures that everything in there is a lie. The point is the Christianity is a set of foma too, as are all religions. You must “live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.” We can’t avoid telling ourselves comfortable lies, so we had better tell ones that make us better people and not worse.

  2. hobo rape

  3. vonnegut is not a nihilist, he is a humanist. the difference is that instead of believing nothing matters he believes humans matter. any of his books will reaffirm the value of being human. to me, there is nothing further from nihilism.

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