This is nice

If you haven’t yet visited Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, this week’s newsletter is a great place to start.

Maria Popova describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large”. She gathers up all sorts of things that you didn’t know you were interested in, until you are.

Brain Pickings — “is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more”.

I’m sure you will find something of interest to you!

This week’s offering If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness, Computers, Community, and the Power of Great Teachers  provides ideas, quotations and excerpts from speeches made by Kurt Vonnegut at college graduation ceremonies between 1978 and 2004.

Here are just a few that I found particularly interesting or appealing. Please visit Brain Pickings for a more complete synopsis.


 “But I say with all my American ancestors, “If what Jesus said was good, and so much of it was absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?”

If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

“But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement, without the kick of having scores to settle with this particular person, or that bunch of people, or that particular institution or race or nation. And we can then reasonably ask forgiveness for our trespasses, since we forgive those who trespass against us. And we can teach our children and then our grandchildren to do the same — so that they, too, can never be a threat to anyone.”

“I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.”

“By working so hard at becoming wise and reasonable and well-informed, you have made our little planet, our precious little moist, blue-green ball, a saner place than it was before you got here.”

“When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”


Which ideas of Kurt Vonnegut do you find interesting?

With which do you agree or disagree?

9 thoughts on “This is nice

  1. Charli Mills

    Brain Pickings certainly filled my brain; fascinating article. The connections of friendship are so important. I’ve mostly lived in rural places and that moment of making a friend made the place feel more welcoming. Then I moved to the most population dense area I’ve ever lived–Minneapolis, MN. They have a saying in MN: “People are Minnesota nice.” This means that they are polite, not friendly. They don’t have time to be your “friend.” I’m friendly–I like to make friends. Living there was the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my adult life. I did make a few friends, but they were out-of-staters like me. I even sucked every friend-like nutrient I could from work relationships but it was a bland drink. Most of my friends now are online, and I agree with that fulfillment from sharing space with other like-minds. It is, in the Vonnegut sense, “nice.”


    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Charli. You describe a similar loneliness experienced in the very-populated Minneapolis to that mentioned by Anne in her comment. We can be in a crowd of people and still feel alone. I love your description “I even sucked every friend-like nutrient I could from work relationships but it was a bland drink”. It says so much in so few words. I’m sure it will find a wider audience in another piece of writing somewhere. It’s too good to languish in a comment box. It’s always “nice” to converse with you, and other online friends. 🙂


  2. Annecdotist

    Interesting stuff to ponder here and in the original article, e.g.
    What has gone wrong is that too many people, including high school kids and heads of state, are obeying the Code of Hammurabi, a King of Babylonia who lived nearly four thousand years ago. And you can find his code echoed in the Old Testament, too. Are you ready for this?
    “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
    How to get the politicians to see this?


    1. Annecdotist

      I sort of see his point about needing lots of people in our lives, but it’s possible to feel lonely in a family, group or crowd if you find it hard to be recognised for who you are. Not so easy as joining lots of clubs.


      1. Norah Post author

        Yes, I found this one interesting too. I think being able to connect with others with similar views is important, and maybe the more people you meet, the greater the opportunity for making those connections? In her article, Maria discussed how these thoughts appeared to be in contrast to his dislike of computer interactions. But that was before the advent of social media. I now find social media a great way of connecting with those whose ideas I share. Thanks for being one of those, Anne.


    2. Norah Post author

      I thought so too Anne. And a lot of others should see it, and act on it, too. Makes me think about my own ability to forgive as well. I have never been one for revenge, but forgiveness? That can be difficult at times.


  3. Bec

    Thanks Nor, Vonnegut has some very poignant remarks! I didn’t realise he was around so recently. For some reason, I thought he was from the early 1900s.



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