Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
By working so hard at becoming wise and reasonable and well-informed, you have made our little planet, our precious little moist, blue-green ball, a saner place than it was before you got here? Most of you are preparing to enter fields unattractive to greedy persons, such as education and the healing arts. Teaching, may I say, is the noblest profession of all in a democracy.
Computers are no more your friends, and no more increasers of your brainpower, than slot machines? Only well-informed, warm-hearted people can teach others things they?ll always remember and love. Computers and TV don?t do that. A computer teaches a child what a computer can become. An educated human being teaches a child what a child can become. Bad men just want your bodies. TVs and computers want your money, which is even more disgusting. It?s so much more dehumanizing!
I am so smart I know what is wrong with the world. Everybody asks during and after our wars, and the continuing terrorist attacks all over the globe, ?What?s gone wrong?? What has gone wrong is that too many people, including high school kids and heads of state, are obeying the Code of Hammurabi, a King of Babylonia who lived nearly four thousand years ago. And you can find his code echoed in the Old Testament, too. Are you ready for this? ?An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.? A categorical imperative for all who live in obedience to the Code of Hammurabi, which includes heroes of every cowboy show and gangster show you ever saw, is this: Every injury, real or imagined, shall be avenged. Somebody?s going to be really sorry.
One of the things [Uncle Alex] found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, ?If this isn?t nice, what is??
That?s one favor I?ve asked of you. Now I ask for another one. I ask it not only of the graduates, but of everyone here, parents and teachers as well. I?ll want a show of hands after I ask this question. How many of you have had a teacher at any level of your education who made you more excited to be alive, prouder to be alive, than you had previously believed possible? Hold up your hands, please. Now take down your hands and say the name of that teacher to someone else and tell them what that teacher did for you. All done? If this isn?t nice, what is?
We may never dissuade leaders of our nation or any other nation from responding vengefully, violently, to every insult or injury. In this, the Age of Television, they will continue to find irresistible the temptation to become entertainers, to compete with movies by blowing up bridges and police stations and factories and so on? But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement, without the kick of having scores to settle with this particular person, or that bunch of people, or that particular institution or race or nation. And we can then reasonably ask forgiveness for our trespasses, since we forgive those who trespass against us. And we can teach our children and then our grandchildren to do the same ? so that they, too, can never be a threat to anyone.
You should know that when a husband and wife fight, it may seem to be about money or sex or power. But what they?re really yelling at each other about is loneliness. What they?re really saying is, ?You?re not enough people? If you determine that that really is what they?ve been yelling at each other about, tell them to become more people for each other by joining a synthetic extended family ? like the Hell?s Angels, perhaps, or the American Humanist Association, with headquarters in Amherst, New York ? or the nearest church.
To be is to do-Socrates To do is to be-Sartre Do Be Do Be Do-Sinatra
Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.
Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were big things.
Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.
I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.
Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.
Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.
Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.
All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber.
A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.
New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
Laughter or crying is what a human being does when there is nothing left he can do.
People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.
We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.