I woke up this morning and unfolded the front page of the New York Times to discover that Kurt Vonnegut is dead at 84. He was a great writer whose book Cat’s Cradle was a big influence on my worldview. When I was in the ninth grade, the book was a reading assignment in my English class. At the same time, I was also engaged in classes at my local Catholic church to prepare for the sacrament of Confirmation.
While I had already had doubts about whether I actually wanted to be confirmed and had some serious misgivings about any form of organized religion, reading Cat’s Cradle pushed me squarely into the atheist (or at least deeply agnostic) camp. Shortly after reading the book (and then re-reading it) I quit my Confirmation class, stopped attending Mass (except for Christmas and Easter, to keep my mom happy) and converted to Bokononism. And years later when I spent half a year living in Germany (Berlin and Munich) during my time at Stanford, I visited Dresden and the site of the actual Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five.)
I was originally going to start this post by writing that Mr. Vonnegut had come unstuck in time, but Paul Kedrosky beat me to it. So I will simply wish Mr. Vonnegut farewell and hope that there were no suspicious traces of ice-nine found near his body.
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