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Utopian dreams in ‘God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater’ |

Sunday Lifestyle

Utopian dreams in ‘God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater’

- Simon Louis Errol E. Torres -
Two things I realized while screaming for Spider-man as the thief that seized my girlfriend’s purse ran away and then suddenly disappeared from the mottled crowd of Recto: 1) That I should’ve called instead for a local and more imminent hero like Captain Barbel and; 2) It’s amazing how people laugh at you for doing something you think is very noble and sweet. The first one perhaps is a gentle mockery and excuse for the sheer helplessness that my friend and I felt at that moment but the latter just bothers the hell out of me. Last time I checked, one is entitled to his or her own fantasy no matter how rabid or insurmountable it may be.

About a year ago, at the same time my wallet was beginning to treat books as luxuries, I bought my first Kurt Vonnegut masterpiece from a colossal pile of craggy and faded books. Two months later, almost unconsciously, I found myself nibbling my fourth. I could say that I was hypnotized, or even fooled by his unique satires of distinctive human conditions. The manner he views and criticizes the world’s contemporary idiosyncrasies is sublime in its presentation but totally brutal in its aftermath. Anyone who knows the author’s works and subscribes to his nerve-racking black humor will nod immediately when I say that he’s got a weird imagination and psychoneurotic appetite to vanquish man’s conventional and prejudiced mind-set. The film Breakfast of Champions, for example, which is based on his book of the same title and stars an eccentric Bruce Willis, is one of the most far-out and entertainingly absurd films that I saw next to Charlie Kaufman’s endearing chef d’ouevres.

In God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, my latest plate of Vonnegut’s tasty and spunky offerings and the simplest and reluctantly inspiring novel that I’ve learned to adore, he created an exotic path for readers to see the greatest irony in human experience and the maddeningly sane vision of our society that hinders progress and attainability of a better relationship among fellow struggling human beings in this mystifying universe. The novel’s message of hope trying to surpass the interlaced hypocrisy, greed, waste, and folly of modern man is well-carved in each page that one wonders of the contingency of the protagonist’s Utopian dream.

Eliot Rosewater, the novel’s heart, a tippler and son of a senator, is the president of one of the wealthiest and most successful companies in America, the Rosewater Foundation (think Donald Trump). Tired of the exquisitely suffocating glamour of an empyrean lifestyle and outrageously disgusted by man’s foolish ways, he abandons his office, volunteers as a firefighter, and becomes a humanitarian in every sense of the word (think St. Francis of Assisi in a fireman’s coat with a bottle of booze tied to his arm). He turns into an artist, with the less-fortunate’s lives as his canvas, eagerly painting a harmonious world with brush strokes of genuine care and neon colors of sincerity and understanding. With all his might, he helps every one in distress, how silly or shallow their problems seem to be. Driven by love for humanity, he treasures human beings as human beings, relieving himself of the rotten stigma that enfeebles our moral upbringing.

However, like the man that I was on that sunny afternoon crying for a superhero to come, Eliot Rosewater was considered insane, believed to be sprawling in a dreamland, confused and deceived. People tried to wake him up, bringing him back to the supposedly sane cluster as a shepherd would drag a lost sheep back to the track. He was wasting his life, as his detractors claimed; duped by idealism that is intangible, let alone impervious and weak.

But one is lead to ask, who is the one insane? Who are the real fools, naïve to the workings of the world? Is it those people like the Filipino taxi driver who returned a large sum of money? Is it the businessman gladly donating part of his income to alleviate the economic crisis currently strangling our country? Or is it my estranged neighbor who, out of the blue, lets a complete stranger into his house, gives him food and money with no questions asked? Perhaps all of them are insane. Or, hopefully, none.

For a long time, man has been plagued by a contagious disease annihilating the purity and innocence that this world desperately needs. As youngsters growing up, we are trained to confide that this world is not necessarily just. Being virtuous doesn’t always pay off. The world is created with myriad powers, each seeking to destroy the other. Appeasing happiness is nothing but a romantic ideal comforting our blinded selves that fail to see the innate sorrow of living. Paradise is unlikely to appear. Such world as ours does not permit a pigment of fancy and fantasy. In this random universe, all you need to know is that suffering is impossible to cease and happiness is temporary and hard to achieve. They may not be much but that’s all there is.

But Vonnegut refuses to settle for such dim beliefs and purposely drives his main character to pursue his so-called insanity. Through Vonnegut’s remarkable storytelling, he attempts to expunge the gloom that wraps today’s popular outlook on life, the harsh and horrible reality that we become out of our own misguided ideology. He wrestles, using his own voice, the perilous cynicism that’s becoming man’s favorite pastime; tries to inspire readers to do random acts of kindness despite the world’s hostile powers and man’s natural instinct to destroy. He encourages goodwill despite potential failure, selflessness despite absolute pain. Vonnegut whispers through printed words that to grow up and mature never means surrendering to society’s customary rat race. He profoundly reiterates the cliché that it only takes one to break the vicious cycle.

People are afraid to do good things because it makes them vulnerable as our minds are chained to the fatuous presumption that man’s nature is poisonous, selfish, and cruel. We have been living under the spell of not trusting anybody, that man is wicked and untrue. We are so preoccupied of not falling as victims of man’s malevolence that we forgot that it is the only way for others to comprehend their dreadful mistakes.

We need to thrust upon ourselves the audacity and vigor to chase after the goodness in man, remembering that if we continue our present course, decay will be inevitable and perdition will be our only pending destination. I know that there is no way for the whole world to change. It’s more than ridiculous to dream that one day, we’ll wake up from this madness and found every one lending a helping hand to another.

But each man is a dreamer, a hopeless romantic in his own peculiar way, waiting for the sun to shine in his dark prison cell. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater keeps the flame of hope burning, promoting it as armor against self-destruction and pointless existence. I may not be able to witness the paradise in its utmost sense but my fingers are crossed that it will happen; maybe in this lifetime or maybe in the next. Perhaps when I cry for Spider-man again, he’ll be right there saving me from my mishap with his glutinous web and extraordinary strength.

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