Vonnegut, McGaughey, and death

I tackled a tough but necessary topic in my art column this month: death. It was a bit crazy how it all came together really: me finding artist Kath McGaughey, my recent experiences with death, the need for this discussion in my life. Read my column to see some of the coincidences, but another one that was too “out there” to explore in print was the fact that I was reading Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five at the time. Holy Tralfamadore! It was pretty cool to read this fictional planet’s take on death. Here are a few excerpts if you haven’t read it:

The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.

This part in particular struck me after reading it and then seeing Kath’s show because one of her larger pieces, the crows lined on wires, references Rosary beads.

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.”

“I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”

*top 2 photos by Lexy Eich


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