“If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is…”

“And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

“So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’ ”

     – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., A Man Without A Country 

Maybe 12 years old when i read my first Vonnegut novel, Cat’s Cradle.  Read everything he wrote along the way after that… i thought he was “funny”, “cosmic”, and very “hip”.  It wasn’t until i was in my late 30’s and started re-reading his early works, and reading his current essays that it hit me how deeply his words resonated – articulating much of my own view of the world. 

On the surface one can see the cynicism, the darkness, the bleak portrait he paints of the human condition.  Much like me.  But it has always been his words of hope that touched me most deeply.  Such as the passage above…  Since his death in 2007, i’ve taken to saying the words out loud when something felt nice.

This weekend?  Nothing in particular going on… relieved that i’d passed that damn test on Friday.  Knowing that my children were both “in good places” in their respective situations.  Mom – doing well and  entertained in The Park – with my sister, T, in town for her high-school reunion. 

Spent Friday evening with friends at the Celtic festival, drinking, dancing, and drinking-and-dancing** to one of the best Irish jam bands, ever!  A beautiful summer Saturday afternoon – riding my bike for transport, not just recreation – to volunteer to help some well intentioned local political activists get the word out**.  Listening a favorite bit of music on the iPod from the night before… Excited about the new digs, and feeling overwhelmed at my good fortune for being in a position to make such a move…

…and i started to cry.  Not one of those sobbing, snot-running down your face things.  Just a few tears.  All was well with my insignificant corner of the world for that one moment in time.  i’m not even sure if there was anyone nearby to hear me say “if this isn’t nice, then i don’t know what is…”

This one’s for you, Uncle Alex.  And God Bless you, Mr. Vonnegut…

* Gaelic Storm.  They are fabulous…  ended up seeing them Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  They got started as the “Steerage” band in the movie Titanic.  Despite the fact that the movie blew and the boat sank, the band was delicious!

** i’ve lost my voice, ears are still ringing, and can barely walk from the dancing.  Last night, my friend and i were probably older than anyone else in the mosh pit – by 20 years.  But hey, we got invited to the “after party” because we were cool old dudes…

*** and later being completely annoyed that the task they’d asked me to help with had been postponed due to technical difficulties, and my 10 mile ride out there had been for recreation after all… no phone call to the volunteers signed up to work.  no wonder these tree-hugging boneheads can’t elect anyone…