Vonnegut is possibly the most monotonous of excellent authors. He has one topic–modern mass society–and but one statement to make on it, “there’s only one rule I know of, babies, goddamnit, you’ve got to be kind”.
Player Piano is no exception to this rule. Vonnegut gives one of his most impressionable tales of modern society, largely because of its disturbing prescience. Silicon chips have replace vacuum tubes, but the slow and steady trend of humans replacing themselves with machines continues; our desire for new for newness sake continues unabated.
Though Vonnegut is often styled as absurdist, Piano Player is a modern fairy tale. Like every fairy tale it takes the stories men use to explain the world, whether they be fairies or scientific progress, and follows their logic to the end. Piano Player takes at face value the arguments of politicians, economists, city planners and tech entrepreneurs the world over. With characteristic wit and subterfuge, Vonnegut brings up the uneasy underpinnings of these thinkers: that man is little more than a series of “if-then” statements, a compilation of various regular laws and tendencies. In doing so, Vonnegut asks if perhaps the push for material progress such and understanding entails has pushed out our humanity. Piano Player makes no effort to prove the pushers of progress wrong—it takes the more disturbing tact of asking whether they have the right.
I decided I wanted to learn how to draw. So this is recent.
The psalmist says: “And all my desire is before you” (Ps 37,10). Not indeed before men, who cannot see into the heart: but “before you is all my desire”. Set your desire on him, and “the Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt 6,4). This very desire of yours is your prayer. If your desire is continual, your prayer is continual too. It was not for nothing that the Apostle Paul said: “Pray without ceasing” (1Thes 5 17). Was it so that we should be continuously on our knees, or prostrating our bodies or raising our hands that he says: “Pray without ceasing” ? If that is how we say our prayers, then my opinion is that we cannot do that without ceasing. But there is another and interior way of praying without ceasing, and that is the way of desire. Whatever else you are doing, if you long for that Sabbath rest, you are not ceasing to pray. If you do not want to cease praying, do not cease longing… You will lapse into silence if you lose your longing. Who did lapse into silence? Those of whom it was said: “Because wickedness is multiplied, the charity of many will grow cold” (Mt 24,12). The coldness of charity is the heart’s silence; its glowing ardour, the heart’s outcry. If charity “endures for ever” (1Cor 13,8), you are ever crying out; if always crying out, you are ever longing; if longing, you have not forgotten repose. ‘And all my desire is before you… And my groaning is not hidden from you”… If the desire is always within, so too is the groaning: it does not always come to the ears of men, but it is never absent from the ears of God.
The never old St. Augustin.