Last night, my classics reading group watched George Roy Hill's 1972 adaption of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. It isn't often that we read anything less than 2,300 years old, but we made an exception to honor the passing of Kurt.
While the film took the Cannes jury prize that year and also won a Hugo award, it was too weird for most people and didn't do well in theaters. The movie is now out of print, but can be rented at Scarecrow.
You've never heard of anyone who was in it, except for Holly Near, who played Billy Pilgim's lovely but doomed wife. Up until now, Near's film career had escaped my notice, but she's also had small roles in All in the Family, The Partridge Family, and most recently, Law & Order.
The Tralfamadorians, who live in four dimensions, seem to have it right. Time is an illusion and all moments have always been and always will be, so there isn't much to get worked up over. Things aren't bad or good. They just are. Being happy is about focusing on the good.
Pilgrim finds his own peace when he becomes an evangelist for Tralfamadorian fatalism. Life's tragic absurdities are much easier to take if you assume their inevitability.
For myself, I don't think I'm ready to dump the notion of free will just yet. But it does seem sometimes as though the broad strokes have already been drawn, and all that's left to us is some filling in of shadows and texture. We kid ourselves, I think, about how much control we actually have.