Postmodernism: Final Thoughts on Cat’s Cradle

There are days when I just… can’t. And, yes, I know I shouldn’t complain. I’m not really, just making a comment on my current mood. Retirement has its advantages, sure, but there is a down side. I’m alone quite a bit, and still adjusting to it. There are times when I struggle against it, but then relax. If Buddhist monks can sit in a cave alone for a year and come out enlightened, I can be at home with my books for a few days at time using it wisely.

postmodernism in cat's cradle

And that’s exactly what I did. I did my morning chores cheerfully, but instead of moving into another project and being “productive,” I got a cup of coffee and a cookie, snuggled into my blanket, and read for another hour… or two. The glory of having no one to serve daily is that I can put off until tomorrow what I don’t feel like doing today. That is also the curse, by the way.

Don’t worry. Things will be done eventually, and if they don’t get done, I guess they didn’t need to be done.

For now, though, check out these quotes from Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

“No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s…”
“No damn cat, no damn cradle.”

Ahh…such is life. That’s the Buddhist concept (and the Matrix) that nothing is real. We make up the meaning in our mind. We grow up with the adults around us pointing to things and telling us what they are. “This is marriage.” But it’s only a concept, made up ideas about how two humans relate. It’s nothing to go to war and kill people over. You do what you want, make up your own rules. That goes for almost everything.

Now that the whole world can quickly communicate with everyone else, things look like they are falling apart. They are in a sense. We all have our own words for things, our own concepts based on generations of experience. Sharing them is complicated. What I say it is, isn’t what you say it is, or what he says it is. We can’t rely on common experience and culture anymore, not yet anyway. It’s going to take a while for us to learn to see reality beyond concepts. And it’s going to be ugly until we do. The best we can do is have patience with each other.

“Crosby was in his cups and had the drunkard’s illusion that he could speak frankly, provided he spoke affectionately.”

Can you not see this scene perfectly?! I love this sentence for several reasons. I want to bring “in his cups” back to common language. And “the drunkard’s illusion!” Ahh, yes. I’ve been there myself. To those that love to “speak frankly, with affection,” lord love you. I know you’re trying to be nice but consider for a moment the feelings of the person you’re speaking to. We all do this a bit too much, with and without the encouragement of alcohol. If you have to say, “No offense, but…” or “With all due respect…” before your sentence, consider not saying it at all.

I finished this book quickly. It’s a very fun read, even with the cynical undertone. After reading the last page, I scribbled, “What’s your point, Kurt! I don’t get it.” I enjoyed the book, but I felt like he was trying to make a point with his wildness, not simply entertain like Douglas Adams. The book is considered a classic, right? So, there must be some grand point to it. I didn’t see it and was frustrated.

Then I did a google search for “What’s the point of Cat’s Cradle” and found this article, Postmodernism in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Oh… Modernism says man can improve his world through reason and science. Postmodernism says maybe not so much. I mean, we created the atom bomb. And today we use drones to murder enemies from afar. Cat’s Cradle is a commentary on that. Religion is a loving lie and science will reason us right into oblivion… possibly.

Reading that article, I started to get upset with myself. I should have been able to see that. I’m not as smart as I think I am. Why do I even bother!?

…record scratch…

Did I not just learn something? Isn’t that the point of reading anything? Yeah, maybe I didn’t decipher Vonnegut’s book myself, but I did find some connecting points to my own world, and then read more that connected those thoughts to the rest of the world. NOT a waste of time. Self-education!

In some ways, I agree with Vonnegut. Humans have come up with amazingly inventive ways, through science, to kill each other and mess up the world, but we’ve come up with equally inventive ways to fix our previous messes and make the world even better than it was. Who knows what we’ll do next? Maybe we’ll finally create infinite energy and create a Star Trek-like world. In the long run, I think humanity is a net positive experience for the universe. Sure things get ugly, but that’s to be expected. Can’t make a cake without breaking some eggs, right?

Humanity will learn from its mistakes eventually. Only time will tell where we will end up as a species. And sitting around being angry at humanity doesn’t stop the wider world from doing shitty things, it only makes your individual life more miserable along with the poor souls that have to live with you.

On a reading note, I realized something about myself. I don’t like writing I have to decipher too much. I’m not a fan of poetry or symbolism. I want straight forward “this is what I think or what I see from my vantage point” kind of stories. That’s why I like historical fiction best, along with nonfiction history and science books.

Click back to my first post New Classics Read: Cat’s Cradle for more of my thoughts about this book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *