"If This isn't Nice, What is?"

Yesterday, between work and doctors' appointments and child pick up, a friend and I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Kurt Vonnegut exhibit at Cornell's Johnson Art Museum.  Another friend of ours had posted some pictures of the exhibit on Facebook, and both of us were surprised that Vonnegut had another creative outlet aside from writing.

There is sheer joy on the walls of the Johnson in that exhibit.  If Vonnegut did not always think highly of humanity as a whole, due in part to his experiences in WW2, his artwork demonstrates a whimsy and zest for life that is contagious.  You can't help but smile as you wander - he was influenced by many of the great 20th century artists, but his work is entirely his own.  Many wonderful and thought-provoking quotes have been shared as well:

I’ve been drawing all my life, just as a hobby, without really having shows or anything. It’s just an agreeable thing to do, and I recommend it to everybody. I always say to people, practice an art, no matter how well or how badly, because then you have the experience of becoming and it makes your soul grow. That includes singing, dancing, writing, drawing, playing a musical instrument. What I hate about school committees today is that they cut art programs out of the program because they say the arts aren’t a way to make a living. Well, there are lots of things worth doing that are no way to make a living. There are agreeable ways to make a more agreeable life.... It’s the doing that matters, the becoming.


I won't pretend that I can offer an art critic's assessment of Vonnegut's drawings, aside from saying that his color palette was pleasing and the way he filled his sketchbook page - the scale and the proportions - was very pleasing.  The subject matter continually made us grin and call each other's attention to a piece.

A snippet of a commencement speech he gave in 1999 illustrates his own desire to cherish a life well lived:

About my Uncle Abe, who is up in Heaven now. One of the things he found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Abe would interrupt the conversation to say, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’

So I hope you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause for a moment, and then say out loud, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’

Practice an art and take a moment to acknowledge when you are happy.  Those seem like very sound rules for life.