Good as New

Speaking of undoing cataclysm, here’s a shout-out to Kurt Vonnegut smoking those Pall Malls of his up in Heaven now. The passage below is from his book Slaughterhouse Five, a war novel by a veteran of WWII who refused to glorify war.

In the book Billy Pilgrim gets abducted by aliens shaped like toilet plungers (as you can see)  is forced to mate with fellow captive and B-movie star named Montana Wildhack and ends up learning all about the way God sees the universe because … all of a sudden Billy can time-travel.

But first let’s  back up again to yesterday and watch Titanic’s tragic fate reverse itself as the clothing of passengers and crew magically shed moisture, the waters course back into the sea, a thousand shattered dishes leap whole into cupboards and the ship itself mends – ah, mends!  

Go ahead, watch it again here and take in that haunting music too. Then, when you’re done watching and listening, read the following passage, one of the most hopeful passages in all of literature. It starts with Billy Pilgrim who, seeing that he has an hour before the flying saucer comes back for him, decides to keep drinking and watch some TV:  

“He went into the living room, swinging the bottle like a dinner bell, turned on the television. He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie backwards, then forwards again. It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:

“American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.

“The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

“When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again.

“The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn’t in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve….”

Pretty nice vision eh? How great would life be if we really did all turn back into babies, guileless and innocent like this little guy who is skipping his nap to get in a little fishing.