As a young punk kid in high school I knew that I would get a tattoo shortly after turning 21 (the legal age in Chicago at the time), but the nerd in me knew that this was a decision that could not be taken lightly. So I thought for hours and hours about what the choice would eventually be, as I made countless doodles in my notebooks instead of paying attention to the teachers. Sure, I regret getting a C in physics due to my tattoo obsession, but those hours of contemplation are what led me to my beloved Kurt Vonnegut tattoo.
Clearly, I am not the only one to be touched personally be the groundbreaking science fiction writer, Vonnegut's deeply compassionate writing has resonated with generations of people. In moments when I am questioning what it is to be a human being, I look to my favorite Hoosier's prose to find some meaning to it all. Books like Slaughterhouse Five, Sirens of Titan, Cat's Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions have helped shape my worldview and I know that I'm a much better person thanks to reading them.
I first discovered Vonnegut by reading his short story Harrison Bergeron in one of my English textbooks (we did not actually read the story in class, I was just such a nerd that I read all the other stories in the book as well), and from that point on I was hooked. Quickly I devoured every piece of Vonnegut's work that I could get my hands on. As a pacifistic kid that had always found far more questions than answers from religion, the black humor and satire found in Vonnegut's view of the world was a treat. Sirens of Titan was a particular favorite of mine. Like much of his work it dealt with the absurdities of life and our inability to control much of what happens to us. Instead of being distraught by this, Vonnegut suggests that we find a way to carry on, as delivered by the character Malachi Constant: "A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."
And just like that Vonnegut has taken something that seems impossible to explain, our very existence, and broken it down into something as simple as being kind to others. It seems idealistic and naive on one hand, but it also seems like the ideal way to live. Like many of the people who consider themselves to be Vonnegut fans, I've chosen to embrace the latter philosophy.
When it came to getting my Vonnegut tattoo I finally settled on a doodle he included in Slaughterhouse Five — a tombstone engraved with the words "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt." If you can get through life and have that be your epitaph you truly have led a perfect existence, and I hope that I'll be able to say the same when my time here is done.
We hope you enjoyed this spotlight on one of my favorite writers of all time, Kurt Vonnegut. Do you have a Vonnegut tattoo of your own? Please upload it to the Tattoodo app with the tag #Vonnegut. We'll leave you with the man's own philosophy wrapped up in one little quote.
"Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies - 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'" -Kurt Vonnegut Jr.