Friday, March 21, 2014

"Make Your Soul Grow"

I recently came across this letter written by the novelist Kurt Vonnegut. It was in response to a student written letter, an assignment, inviting him to visit New York's Xavier High School. Apparently, they wrote to several authors, but he was the only one to respond. It's so perfect I wanted to share it . . .

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 [sic]. 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

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Anonymous said...

Wanted to make sure you'd seen this, Tom. Nice to know there are allies out there!

Monique Nettles said...

Hi Teacher Tom, my name is Monique and I attend the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I can see you are very passionate with teaching and that's wonderful. In elementary and preschool more male teachers are needed like yourself. There wasn't very many when I was younger. Some children will listen to a man before a woman (my 3-year old from time to time). I also noticed that you are from Seattle, I have two brothers that live outside of the city. One of my brothers in particular has two sons a 1 year old and 2 month old. It would be great if they attend the school you teach. Feel free to visit my blog anytime !

Lesley @ early play said...

Dear Tom, Loving all things Kurt, as I do, and working with kids all of my working life I was dee -lighted to find this post of yours (via twitter and retweeted) But even more than this it solidifies what I have been thinking, feeling and planning lately re the redirection of my career.
Thanks so much for being you and all that you do for the kids and the teachers too.
Here is my favourite Kurt quote: "Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place."
Really I think it is my life's motto.