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Friday, September 12, 2008

Vonnegut on the Soul/Meat distinction

If I watch two people talking on a street corner, I see not only their flesh and clothes, but narrow, vertical bands of color inside them—not so much like tape, actually, but more like low-intensity neon tubes.

* * *
"I can't help it," I said. "My soul knows my meat is doing bad things, and is embarrassed. But my meat just keeps right on doing bad, dumb things."

"Your what and your what?" he said.

"My soul and my meat," I said.

"They're separate?" he said.

"I sure hope they are," I said. I laughed. "I would hate to be responsible for what my meat does."

I told him, only half joking, about how I imagined the soul of each person, myself included, as being a sort of flexible neon tube inside. All the tube could do was receive news about what was happening with the meat, over which it had no control.

‘”So when people I like do something terrible,” I said, “I just flense them and forgive them.”

“Flense?” he said. “What’s flense?”

“It’s what whalers used to do to whale carcasses when they got them on board,” I said. “They would strip off their skin and blubber and meat right down to the skeleton. I do that in my head to people—get rid of all the meat so I can see nothing but their souls. Then I forgive them.”

* * *
….”your meat made the picture in the potato barn,” she said.

“Sounds right, “ I said. “My soul didn’t know what kind of picture to paint, but my meat sure did.”

“Well then,” she said, “isn’t it time for your soul, which has been ashamed of your meat for so long, to thank your meat for finally doing something wonderful?”

I thought that over. “That sounds right too,” I said.

“You have to actually do it,” she said.

“How?” I said.

“Hold your hand in front of your eye,” she said, “ and look at those strange and clever animals with love and gratitude, and tell them out loud: ‘Thank you, Meat.’”

So I did.

I held my hands in front of my eyes, and I said out loud and with all my heart: ‘Thank you, Meat.’”

Oh happy Meat. Oh happy Soul. Oh happy Rabo Karabekian.

Kurt Vonnegut - Bluebeard
meatspace n. The physical world, where the meat lives - as opposed to cyberspace. Hackers are actually more willing to use this term than `cyberspace', because it's not speculative - we already have a running meatspace implementation (the universe). Compare RL.

from | wikipedia

Neal Stephenson's new book sounds like it might be good. Salon's Review of "Anathem"


Mike said...

Yes, this does sound a bit like a commentary on the last part of Romans 7.

Bluebeard is ok but not one of Vonnegut's best.

Schenck said...

I disagree, mike... Bluebeard is my favorite of his works. Out of the ~10 I've read.

Mike said...

A friend of mine likes Bluebeard the best as well. I'm more of a fan of Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five but it's all good stuff (a couple of the essays in Armageddon in Retrospect are also awesome). Vonnegut ranks his own books somewhere, i think it's on his wikipedia entry but I don't know where he did it initially.

Schenck said...

Cat's Cradle is my other favorite :-) closely followed by Sirens.
The list you speak of is originally from his collection Palm Sunday, Chapter 18, "The Sexual Revolution." I have not personally read this collection, though.

Mike said...

Armageddon in Retrospect is Vonnegut's Potato Barn.

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