I just got back from a near death experience in which I travelled down the blue tunnel toward the pearly gates and at the pearly gates, there was St. Peter, who already knew the person I wanted to talk to, and that was none other than Kurt Vonnegut himself, who came out to speak with me, holding his traditional limp cigarette blithely in one hand as he waved it around his dishevelled hair as he talked, and I had to confess that while I really liked the premise of the book that I'd just finished, I felt it was a little too
about the whole Christian ethic.
I mean, nice idea, and it would be nice, it would be, you know, if there was no Hell, only Heaven, and everybody went there - even Hitler, just like he wrote in his book, and Vonnegut said,
"Well, you know, it's hard to face the entire concept of Hell when Hell is being forced upon you by people who simply don't like you. The problem with the living is that they have already judged who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell, and it's all based on whether they like you or not.
"I mean," he continued, "I sum it all up in the very last line of the book - 'Watch out for those Christians'."
I told him I'd caught that - very poignant line, I had to admit.
" . . . so, yeah, it's very hard to take seriously the entire concept of being condemned when it's people doing the condemning. It's only now, that I got up here, that I've realized that God Himself never condemned anybody anyway. It's only humans who condemn. I gotta tell you - God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is a wonderful wonderful God, but even He - more than any human - understand the complete irony of having followers who are the WORST purveyors of His message - I mean, the greatest message of peace and love has historically been delivered at the point of a sword, with rampant disease, with genocide, and with hysterical voices and lying hypocritical and hypercritical tongues. It's amazing there's anybody up here."
"Well, since you yourself in the book seemed to indicate the lack of need for Christ, how did you make it here?" I felt a little impertinent, asking such a question, I mean, this was our guy, when I was a teenager, all my friends and I read this man's works avidly: Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, Welcome to the Monkey House . . . although I had to admit, my cadre of ernest readers seemed to sour a little on Galapagos, although I can't remember why, maybe it was just boring. Maybe nothing could ever really compare to Cat's Cradle.
Anyway, during my reverie, Vonnegut had been explaining to me how he had actually been able to be a Christian AND an intellectual at the same time, and when I asked him to explain again, he said he was tired and wanted to get back inside where it was nothing but poolside and highballs for eternity.
As he walked back through the gate, I asked him one last question, "So, truly, is Isaac Asimov in Heaven really?"
Vonnegut replied, "Let me tell you a little secret - every once in awhile God will grace an individual human with just a little tiny bit of His own intelligence - and those people are your Einsteins, your Newtons, your Asimovs. And of course, He's not going to let knowledge like that be reverse engineered in the flame pits of Sheol! Not in a millenium! Ta ta!"
And with that, he was gone, and
I have come back, here, to the cafe, to tell
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