rereading slaughterhouse five

January 20, 2018
Re-read Slaughterhouse Five. Forgot what a brisk read it is. The view of time is so striking
The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist.
It's hard to figure out if that stance is profound or delusional; but it reminds me of "Still Life with Woodpecker" pointing out that it's a little prejudicial to care about something only because it's animate; there's that hint of shinto-esque animism, that just by having design and purpose and reflection of human intention or desire, there's a bit of a life there.

From a typical western point of view, both views are absurd; a moment in the past is a nothing, just an idea that has fundamentally dissolved, the curtains of steadily moving time having firmly come down in front of it, in fact an ever-moving series of heavy curtains slamming down. And of course we favor the animate; anything animate is more our cousin than anything not - hell, if that weren't true would there be any there there from which to do the favoring?

And yet.

Two other passages that stick with me:

And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.
And also the story of stealing a spoonful of vitamin syrup meant for pregnant women:
Billy thrust [the spoon] into the vat, turned it around and around, making a gooey lollipop. He thrust it into his mouth.

A moment went by, and then every cell in Billy’s body shook him with ravenous gratitude and applause.
Sometimes I've felt a hint of that, like when I hit on a vegetable that my body seems to be craving... it just feels so right.