Do not Believe a Word of This

“Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.”
-The Books of Bokonon. I: 5

I arrived too late to the party , seeing how I just finished Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Let us then talk about Bokonon, the man who built a religion for the people of San Lorenzo. Failing to give them a better livelihood, he settled for their happiness. In San Lorenzo, religion is a game, and everyone knows it, inasmuch as they play it.

There is indeed, something about lies beautifully told, for it is in the nature of World to be just the way as it appears to be. This means two, very distinctive, things. First of all, that lies exist because we are limited in understanding, but most important of all, that lies are part of the World and thus have to be respected in their own terms. We might not judge a lie on the grounds of how much (or little) truth it carries in its belly, but only on how beautiful the lie is, thus we have religion and literature and even science, philosophy. It is in the nature of things to be as they appear.

A friend once told me that at the bottom of the etymology for the word mask lies the word face. I do not care to see if this is real or not, but the point is interesting enough. Let us say then, that the lies we tell, and the ones told to us, simply offer different angles on the possible and on what is. As Vonnegut himself put it, as kind of preface and warning to his novel, a little asterisk hovering above the alien foma*, that leads to the bottom of the page, where it reads: *Harmless untruths.

As Didion would put it, we tell ourselves stories in order to live. There is then no greater upper-case Truth than this; we all worship whatever gods there are, as we must.