Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. And The Works Of Mercy: Quotations

"It has been said many times that man's knowledge of himself has been left far behind by his understanding of technology, and that we can have peace and plenty and justice only when man's knowledge of himself catches up. This is not true. Some people hope for great discoveries in the social sciences, social equivalents of F=ma and E=mc2, and so on. Others think we have to evolve, to become better monkeys with bigger brains. We don't need more information. We don't need better brains. All that is required is that we become less selfish than we are.
"We already have plenty of sound suggestions as to how we are to act if things are to become better on earth. For instance: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. About seven hundred years ago, Thomas Aquinas had some other recommendations as to what people might do with their lives, and i do not find these made ridiculous by computers and trips to the moon and television sets. He praises the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy, which are these:
"To teach the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to console the sad, to reprove the sinner, to forgive the offender, to bear with the oppressive and troublesome, and to pray for us all.
"He also admires the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy, which are these:
"To feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick and prisoners, to ransom captives, and to bury the dead.
"A great swindle of our time is the assumption that science has made religion obsolete. All science has damaged is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Jonah and the Whale. Everything else holds up pretty well, particularly the lessons about fairness and gentleness. People who find those lessons irrelevant in the twentieth century are simply using science as an excuse for greed and harshness.
"Science has nothing to do with it, friends."
--from "Address to Graduating Class at Bennington College, 1970," from Wampeters Foma and Granfalloons, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

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