April 13, 2007

Breakfast of Champions

Kurt Vonnegut died on Wednesday, and I have to say I'm always sad when I hear about someone famous dying. Not that famous people are any different than any of us regular people, but there is something incredibly humanizing about death. It's the great equalizer, right?? Even the rich, fabulous, and influential can't beat it. Being that I was an English major, I know you probably think I'm going to wax about my love for his novels and essays and how he shaped my literary life, but if we're being totally honest here -- and I like to think we are -- I haven't read too much Vonnegut in my lifetime, so writing my imagined literary memories would be a wee bit poseur, so I will spare you. In my defense though, damnit, he gets compared to Mark Twain alot and I have read waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much Twain, so there! I'm not a failure.

But anyway, it appears that my Vonnegut memories [and this will be a total shocker] are much more pop culture related. Do you remember that wacky Baz Luhrmann song Everybody's Free (to wear sunscreen)? Well according to Wikipedia, long before that song became a part of that craptacular collection of music that we all call "the late 90's", it was widely rumored that the lyrics of this song were actuall a commencement speech that Kurt Vonnegut gave at MIT. As it turns out, however, this claim was somewhat erroneous. It was actually written by a woman named Mary Schmich who wrote for the Chicago Tribune, and it wasn't an MIT speech after all but rather her June 1997 column that contained the humorous yet insightful advice. You can read it here but thanks to our good friend Mr. Luhrmann, this will all probably seem familiar.

So all of this death, confusion, and advisement got me thinking about Schmich's advice. Or rather, about what my own advice would be, had I been in Schmich's position. What have I learned over the years, and what do I wish I could have told a younger version of myself. What do I know now that I wish I knew then? It has been wonderful food for thought.

More to come...

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