President’s Message 5/1/19:
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”
I hope everyone is enjoying the warming and greening that spring brings to us. As we progress along deeper into 2019, I can’t help but think about all the “golden” anniversaries that occur this year.
It will be 50 years since the moon landing in 1969. I remember as a young kid being glued to the TV for days. And I clearly remember my grandmother explaining that all the rain we had that summer of ‘69 was due to “those astronauts poking a hole in the sky!” Fifty years since Woodstock (no, I didn’t get to go, but my wife Sharon did), and 50 years since the release of two pivotal albums that a certain young musician could not stop playing on something that was called a “turntable”: Aoxomoxoa by the Grateful Dead and Hot Rats by Frank Zappa. These albums changed my perspective on music forever.
And, of course, 50 years since the release of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Slaughterhouse-Five. I became a Vonnegut fanatic in college and although Slaughterhouse-Five was not the first book of his that I read, it is one of my favorites. Vonnegut was a prisoner of war during World War II and literally escaped death in the fire-bombing of Dresden by being locked in an underground meat locker known to his captors as “Schlachthof-fünf”. This book is part war story, part allegory, part science fiction, part social commentary and part black humor. There are characters in the book that will appear in many other Vonnegut novels, until Breakfast of Champions, where the author gives them their freedom. My favorite such character being Kilgore Trout, the prolific science fiction writer who could only get his stories published in “lewd magazines.” Yes, I was once in a band that was called “The Kilgore Trout Band” in his honor!
Slaughterhouse-Five has been the subject of many attempts at censorship due to its irreverent tone, purportedly obscene content, religious, moral and social commentary, and perceived heresy due to its discussions of fate and free will. With numerous attempts to remove the book from school libraries, the Supreme Court finally ruled that “local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.’” Today, many of these ‘heretical ideas’ are part of our Unity values.
Also today, the book is acknowledged as Vonnegut identifying PTSD well before the medical community recognized the condition. Vonnegut struggled for 24 years writing this book since that fateful day in Dresden, 1945 and actually rewrote it from scratch on many, many occasions, changing the title, the content, everything.. until he was convinced he said what he had to say. This was in the days of manual typewriters, pencils with erasers, and stacks and stacks of paper!
I have gotten into the habit of re-reading all of my Vonnegut collection every few years and I am currently re-reading Slaughterhouse- Five. What is interesting is how a book I have read several times can change its meaning based upon where I am in my life. The same goes for listening to those “golden” albums I mentioned earlier. I think it is a good idea to revisit your life’s high and low points and see how they resonate today. You may find that you have changed significantly, seeing things in a totally different light, or you may remain steadfast…like the spring season bringing change, and yet bringing the return of age-old traditions of flora and fauna. As Vonnegut says some 106 times in the book…”So it goes.”
And speaking of spring, thanks to all who participated in our spring cleaning events, both outside and inside! Stay tuned for a fresh look for the Sanctuary.
One final note: The first Vonnegut book I ever read was Cat’s Cradle. This book was also on the “banned list” for similar reasons. The actual paperback copy I had was passed around between a dozen or so of my college friends and it is now sitting in the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library in Indianapolis in their “Banned Book Collection.”
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