Thursday, April 12, 2007
I just got the news that Kurt Vonnegut has died at the age of 84.
One of my favourite atheists, perhaps one of the most lucid and evocative of writers - with a style to die for - and great jokes.
Finding myself at the day job, I don't have time to add much right now - so I'll poach a little from Wiki, and return later with thoughts of my own.
My favourite of his books? Maybe - Cat's Cradle, or... probably (for re-reading) Sirens of Titan.
If you don't know - Sirens of Titan (1959) has the feel of Douglas Adams' Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (only written much earlier). Not to hint that DNA might have read it...
In fact, now I think of it, perhaps Kurt had already fallen into a phenomenon known as a chrono-synclastic infundibulum (nothing like the Total Perspective Vortex), which he defines as "those places ... where all the different kinds of truths fit together." Vonnegut notes that any detailed description of this phenomenon would baffle the layman, but any comprehensible explanation would insult an expert.
Consequently, he "quotes" an article from a (fictional) children's encyclopedia. According to this article, since the Universe is so large, all ways of observing it seem equally valid because people from across the Universe can't communicate with each other (and therefore can't get into an argument). He describes chrono-synclastic infundibula as places where these "ways to be right" coexist (sounds like the MLA). Creatures entering the infundibulum become "wave phenomena", somewhat like the probability waves of quantum mechanics. The heroes of the book exist along a spiral stretching from the Sun to the star Betelgeuse. When a planet such as the Earth intersects their spiral they materialize, temporarily, on that planet. And so Kurt temporarily materialized, and has now waved goodbye once more.
To quote the 'messiah' of The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent
"I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all."
Posted by Bogus Magus at 10:52 am