“Believe the [harmless lies]

that makes you brave and kind and happy and healthy.”

–Kurt Vonnegut

 

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was an American writer born in November 11, 1922. His views, although regarded by many as deeply cynical, remain timeless and wildly relevant.

“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.”

Vonnegut’s views on religion seep through his works, such as Cat’s Cradle, through the religion Bokonism which is based on the belief that all religions (including Bokonism) are lies but, at the same time it is a useful religion that sometimes offers profound insights into the human condition.

This piece of doggerel is simple and catchy, but it unpacks into a resonant, meaningful philosophy that reads as sympathetic to humanity, albeit from a removed, humoring, alien viewpoint. Man’s just another animal, it implies, with his own peculiar instincts, and his own way of shutting them down. This is horrifically cynical when considered closely: If people deciding they understand the world is just another instinct, then enlightenment is little more than a pit-stop between insoluble questions, a necessary but ultimately meaningless way of taking a sanity break. At the same time, there’s a kindness to Bokonon’s belief that this is all inevitable and just part of being a person. Life is frustrating and full of pitfalls and dead ends, but everybody has to do it.