Tiger got to hunt, Bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?”

looking into the light

Man got to tell himself he understand

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?”

Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.

by Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007)
from Cat’s Cradle (1963)
Chapter 81
image – woodleywonderworks

See the cat? See the cradle?

In Kurt Vonnegut’s science fiction tale, Cat’s Cradle, the narrator describes planning to write a book about what Americans were doing when Hiroshima was bombed – a fictitious co-inventor of the atom bomb was playing cat’s cradle. At the end of the book the world’s ecosystem is completely destroyed, not by a bomb, but by an accident – an accident that would not have happened if a dangerous material had been better safeguarded. Threaded throughout is Bokononism, an invented religion meant to distract people from the miserable reality of their lives.

This is a book about the end of the world, caused by man’s arrogant, unthinking lack of care. Though I’d forgotten most of the tragic parts over the years since I last read it, lyrical bits of Bokononism are still familiar. Consider “It is not possible to make a mistake,” a customary way to greet shy people. Or “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from god.” Or even “Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn’t have the slightest idea what’s really going on.” What’s not to like?

It’s hard not to relate Cat’s Cradle‘s end of the world to today’s global warming crisis. While weather patterns change and Arctic circle ice breaks up, we argue about if global warming is real and pretend that changing a few light bulbs can be more than first baby steps. Do we want the real science, or would we rather have Bokononism’s harmless untruths?

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything.

Give me laughter, strong arms to carry groceries as I walk back from the grocery store, and a quiet place to hear the birds. And those energy efficient light bulbs? Yeah, let’s go for it. It’s a step, and be it ever so small a step, it’s something I can do.

Today’s quote was suggested by woodleywonderworks, a Flickrer whose work I have used here before. When searching their Flickr photos for keywords from the quote, I found the image above, already topping some thoughts about Vonnegut’s Cats Cradle.

Woodleywonderworks said “A quote? I taught my four year old Vonnegut’s famous ‘Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder…'”

What better way to feed hope and awareness, than sharing literacy with a child?

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2 Responses to “Tiger got to hunt, Bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?””

  1. Juanita Says:

    “The world is blind. Those who see are few…”
    ~ Gautama Buddha ~

    I feel the same about recycling as you feel about those light bulbs.

    Even though my conscious mind knows that ultimately the plastic and paper is re-used by the same corporations to save money on raw material processing to create more of the same end-product, my conscience reminds me that at least it isn’t ending up on a landfill by my hands.

  2. pożyczki pozabankowe Says:

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