His situation, insofar as he was a machine, was complex, tragic, and laughable. But the sacred part of him, his awareness, remained an unwavering band of light. And this book is being written by a meat machine in cooperation with a machine made of metal and plastic.... And at the core of the writing meat machine is something sacred, which is an unwavering band of light. At the core of each person who reads this book is a band of unwavering light.
- Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
I finished reading Breakfast of Champions on the train home today. It seemed to fit, somehow, with the occasion, which was returning from my grandmother's funeral. Not because Grandma ever read any Vonnegut; I doubt she would have liked him. She certainly wouldn't have liked his theologising. But in Breakfast of Champions, whilst Vonnegut may describe both the grotesque absurdity of man's inhumanity to man, and the painful absurdity of his own struggle with mental illness, there is all the same at the heart of the novel a belief in the sacred. "I don't want to throw away any sacred things," says Vonnegut in his foreword. "What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance. And all music is." So many bands of unwavering light.
Today, at the cemetery, as we looked down at the coffin sitting in its open grave, and we sprinkled holy water onto it and so framed a life opened with the water of baptism, the clouds parted, and for a moment there was a band of unwavering light.