Letters of Note

It’s hard not to become cynical and jaded in this age of Seen-It-All and Been-There-Done-That. There are moments, however, that have the ability to shake up this mentality and change our point of view. They can be small, fleeting, and perhaps unimportant on a global scale, but if one occurrence changes an individual’s outlook on life — or even if it just makes her or him smile — then that moment should be cherished. Do I sound like Oprah?

Yesterday Charlotte sent me a link to a story on Letters of Note about a group of students from Xavier High School in New York City. The high schoolers’ English teacher had them write letters to their favorite authors and ask him or her to visit the school. This was an exercise in persuasive writing, but what resulted was one of those special moments that Oprah I mentioned earlier: five students wrote to Kurt Vonnegut, and Kurt Vonnegut wrote back.

Here’s a transcript of what he said:


November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

 I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

 What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

 God bless you all!

 Kurt Vonnegut

Anyone else feel supremely inspired?

[Make Your Soul Grow via Letters of Note]

Image of Kurt Vonnegut & Illustrations via vonnegut.com.

  • Jessa Bajwa

    What great advice. I’m going to try this.

  • charlottec

    I was not feeling at my best today, but that did make me feel something in my stomach, call me cheesy… It’s always gonna be about passion… I’m gonna go dance now, literally! bisous from Paris

  • Aubrey Green

    Amazing. Thank you.

  • luxe1968

    Tremendously perceptive life observation. Many people are so caught up in thinking they need recognition/public validation, when in fact it is a much more personal process that genuinely feeds the soul.I like this alot.

  • Aimé

    Rather amazed and happy to read a cheerful note by Vonnegut.

  • Brie

    Holy frijoles. I got the chills.

  • Dina Shrestha

    Is this crazy or what?!! An old friend (who I hadn’t been in touch with for 7 years ) just tagged me on fb TODAY with a poem/memoir that she wrote about us, illustrating our common dreams of being writers, and my tarot card this morning read “Follow my passion” and now this!! I think its the universe telling me to quit my IT job and get back to what really inspires me!! Thank you Amelia 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing, Amelia and Charlotte 🙂

  • (Oh, there goes my poem, blown away by the wind)

  • He always seems to know just what to say. The sage old man with a million fun ideas!