Everything was beautiful, nothing hurt

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. cared passionately about the fate of our planet and its inhabitants.

Our country lost a tremendous author last week when Kurt Vonnegut Jr. died. He died at 84, from injuries he received falling down the stairs of his Manhattan home. His unique brand of science fiction and satire earned him wide repute from the 1960s.

Vonnegut died in a way nobody expected. His readers were familiar with his thirst for a strong drink now and then, and many suspected that his vices would eventually kill him. The most notorious among them was his smoking habit. “I’ve got a lawsuit against Brown & Williamson,” he joked about the cigarette manufacturer a few years back, “because I have been chain-smoking Pall Malls since I was 11. And on their package they promised to kill me.”

This was your typical Vonnegut. He approached topics of life and death bluntly, almost casually, with an equal amount of cynicism and wit. In his most famous novel, 1969’s “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Vonnegut constructs a world where the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, becomes “unstuck in time,” and thus he is free to visit each moment of his life freely, with no regard to chronology. It was in this novel Vonnegut made famous the phrase “so it goes,” using it often to punctuate death.

Vonnegut never got too worked up about answering the “whys” of our universe, but he always had something to say about those who did. “No respecter of evidence has ever found the least clue as to what life is all about, and what people should do about it,” he once told a crowd of recent college graduates. Instead, he urged them to build communities where loneliness no longer existed, and to “expound theories about life in which sane human beings almost everywhere can believe.”

Although his writing often took a cynical edge, he cared passionately about the fate of our planet, and above all else, he cared about its inhabitants. Vonnegut used cynicism and satire to champion hope and friendship. He wanted no one to feel lonely, and he told them so. “I feel and think much as you do,” he once wrote. “Care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.”