‘Do you want to sleep for eternity, or do you want to go back to Earth?’

by Bec Fary

Excerpt of a conversation between Lee Stringer, Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Simon and Ross Klavan, from October 1998:

Lee Stringer: The picture we paint of heaven is of something always beyond ourselves, filled with things are are nice, but which we’re not interested in… and that’s how we keep ourselves locked into this concept of hell. I think that’s the whole point. Drawing that line.

Kurt Vonnegut: Okay, Lee, you’ve died.

Lee Stringer: Yeah.

Kurt Vonnegut: And you are given this option: Do you want to sleep for eternity, or do you want to go back to Earth?

Lee Stringer: Uh-huh.

Kurt Vonnegut: So what’re you going to do?

Lee Stringer: Well, I can answer the question, but I don’t see this as being a –

Kurt Vonnegut: Well [laughing] fuck you!

Lee Stringer: – heaven-and-hell thing.

Dan Simon: That’s like Hamlet.

Lee Stringer: Hell is eternal. You carry it with you.

Dan Simon: Do I get to dream? If I get to dream I’ll sleep. If not, of course I’ll go back to Earth.

Kurt Vonnegut: All right, that’s nice. Never thought to ask that. Good answer.

Lee Stringer: If you can presume that heaven is sleep, which nobody’s proven to me yet, uhm, then I might want to come back to Earth. But that’s just it. Assuming that heaven’s just this blank eternal sleep, you know, is one way of keeping yourself in hell.

Kurt Vonnegut: It would be absolutely okay with me.

Lee Stringer: Eternal sleep?

Kurt Vonnegut: Yes.

Lee Stringer: All right.

Kurt Vonnegut: I really like sleep.

Lee Stringer: Oh! I like sleep. I like sleep when I’m waking up.

Kurt Vonnegut: No, but he came up with the right answer. I really was counting on dreaming. And that –

Lee Stringer: – Then you have to choose your dreams.

Kurt Vonnegut: No, I’ll take them as they come. I haven’t really had any bad ones. Have you?

Lee Stringer: Oh, I’ve had bad dreams. Not many lately… I used to have a recurring dream of being in an airplane that’s about to crash – right in the cockpit – about to crash. And you know it’s about to crash and it keeps wavering…


from ‘Like Shaking Hands With God’