Harmless Untruths

“Anyone unable to understand how useful religion can be founded on lies will not understand this book either.”


I recently picked up Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, and though the book itself is worth a review, one of the central elements is more pressing: Bokononism.


Created for the novel, Bokononism is a fictional religion based around the idea that truths are often more harmful than lies, and that living under false assumptions is actually healthier than being right and unhappy.


In other words: it's a religion that knows it's untrue, but doesn't mind. And it's this acknowledgement that brings a whole new level of enlightenment.


I started grappling with Evangelicalism when I was twenty, uncomfortable with conflicting beliefs raging within my head. For several years, I devoured books and articles and commentaries by the dozen, bent on finding the truth.


Not happiness. Truth.


I became content only when I stopped searching. I have a tattoo–the only tattoo I'll ever have–of the tree of life on my left leg. It's a reminder that humanity has been searching for absolute spiritual truth since longer than I can fathom, and no one's figured it out yet. So what kind of delusion must I have in myself if I believe I can figure it all out?


I think Bokononism intrigues me because kindness, contentment, happiness, love: these are the "truths" worth reaching for. Life is short, and complicated, so here are a few "Bokononisms" that I think are worth cupping in our palms like paper birds, flimsy untruths to cling to.


"Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;

Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’

Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;

Man got to tell himself he understand."


"Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is."

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