This past Sunday at church we heard about the letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to school children shortly before he passed away. To me, the essence of the advice he gave was this:
Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Indeed, make your soul grow. Today is the beginning of the season of Lent, a time when many Christians reflect on the state of their own souls and on their relationship with God. Our pastor used the Vonnegut letter to bring in this new liturgical season.
I have a couple of confessions to make. One confession is, I haven’t been practicing much art at all even though it is one of my most favorite things. A year ago last Christmas our family got a new electric piano, and I spent weeks playing on that thing. Now it’s probably been a year passed since I was last on it. I’ve started up sketch books, journals, watercolors, blogs, etc. etc. but life gets so busy I don’t keep them up. So this Lent, I hope to do a little more of these favorite things and a little less of things that are distracting but ultimately time-wasters.
Another confession, I’ve not read Kurt Vonnegut before. That is before last night, when I downloaded an e-book of Slaughterhouse-Five. Something about that title I suppose that didn’t attract me. But once I started reading, I was hooked. He was talking about the Bombing of Dresden in WWII. I’d never heard about that part of the war, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Incredible. Unbelievable. Tens of thousands of people killed in a few days.
And in reading Vonnegut, it sounded like he’d actually been there. He was. He was a prisoner of war in Dresden, and survived the bombing by hiding in a meatlocker of the slaughterhouse where he was being held prisoner. I haven’t read a lot of the book, but I get the sense that maybe this is a book that all war veterans, such as myself, should read.
I know Slaughterhouse-Five is a classic and I should have read it before now. But better late than never, right? Like I said, over the next several weeks, I hope to be doing lots of things that help nourish and grow my soul. It’s about time.