May 12, 2004

The way things look from a ripe old age.

It's Kurt Vonnegut, at 81, ranting, and even if he's wildly off-track most of the time here, he's got a way with words so I'll listen. (Link via Blogdex.) Here's a point about the Constitution:
There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.

Well, that might be sort of right. I think anyone who wants to do what it takes to get elected President is someone I wouldn't pick if I could look at the whole pool of those who have the capacity to do the job. But I'm also grateful there are some capable and decent people who are willing to do all those crazy things. There was a point watching the Democratic debate last winter, when there were still nine or so candidates, when it crossed my mind: these are all good people who would rise to the occasion if the Presidency were imposed on them. They specifically were not nutty, quite interestingly--even the fringe candidates who had no shot at election.

More from Vonnegut, following up on "[o]nly nut cases want to be president":
But, when you stop to think about it, only a nut case would want to be a human being, if he or she had a choice. Such treacherous, untrustworthy, lying and greedy animals we are.

I sometimes like to think that we were given a choice whether to be born, that there was a beforelife (we like to think there's an afterlife) in which the range of possibilities in a human life were fully explained and we could say yes or no, just like you can look at a rollercoaster and decide if you want to take the ride. So all of us here are the ones who decided to take the ride. I like to speculate about what percentage of beforelife dwellers decide to say yes. I imagine Vonnegut's suggestion is correct: the percentage would be small. The downside risks are too horrible. But we're the brave souls--we're Vonnegut's nuts--who once found the idea of being human so appealing.

Vonnegut quotes Camus--“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide”--and says "All great literature is about what a bummer it is to be a human being." He says, "I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things will kill me." Ah, but I can't believe he's sorry he's alive. Not if he has the spirit to rant like that.

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