140 Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Life, Love, and Death

These Kurt Vonnegut quotes tell deep and insightful stories about his life and the world he lived in.

Beloved because of his intriguing worldview and unusual writing style, he became a literary icon shortly after publishing his first work.

Dive into Kurt Vonnegut’s world of fantasy, science fiction, wit, and satire through this selection of 140 of his best quotes.

Whether you’re here to kill time or look for inspiration, this collection is a worthwhile read!

Start reading the full list here.

And don’t forget to check out these Mary Oliver quotes and Henry David Thoreau quotes.

Best Kurt Vonnegut Quotes

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

1. “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

2. “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim, or murmur, or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

3. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

4. “The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote -What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of the writer.

5. “Talent is extremely common. What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of the writer.”

6. “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

7. “Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”

8. “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge, you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

9. “And I asked myself about the present—how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Dear future generations, please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.

10.“Dear future generations, please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.”

11. “So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”

12. “How nice to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.”

13. “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘It might have been.’”

14. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule—do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.

15. “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I, myself, prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning to do afterward.”

16. “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”

17. “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

18. “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”

19. “Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Dreams, Imagination, and Destiny

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - As children, we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America.

20. “As children, we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America.”

21. “The universe is a big place—perhaps the biggest.”

22. “I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”

23. “All this happened, more or less.”

24. “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith.

25. “Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith. I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.”

26. “Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn’t it such a relief to have somebody say that?”

27. “Where do I get my ideas from? You might as well have asked that of Beethoven. He was goofing around in Germany like everybody else, and all of a sudden, this stuff came gushing out of him. It was music. I was goofing around like everybody else in Indiana, and all of a sudden, stuff came gushing out. It was a disgust with civilization.”

28. “Anyway, because we are readers, we don’t have to wait for some communications executive to decide what we should think about next and how we should think about it. We can fill our heads with anything from aardvarks to zucchinis—at any time of night or day.”

29. “I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did.’”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.

30. “We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.”

31. “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”

32. “It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.”

33. “If your brains were dynamite, there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”

34. “I couldn’t help wondering if that was what God put me on Earth for—to find out how much a man could take without breaking.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - By the same token though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic.

35. “Sometimes, I think it is a great mistake to have matter that can think and feel. It complains so. By the same token though, I suppose that boulders and mountains and moons could be accused of being a little too phlegmatic.”

36. “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”

37. “We are what we imagine ourselves to be.”

38. “As stupid and vicious as men are, this is a lovely day.”

39. “I believe that reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This, to me, is a miracle.

40. “By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This, to me, is a miracle.”

41. “The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, are out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head.”

42. “Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

43. “No art is possible without a dance with death, he wrote.”

44. “Only in books do we learn what’s really going on.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.

45. “He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.”

46. “Sometimes, I wonder if he wasn’t born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that’s the trouble with the world—too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead.”

47. “What is the purpose of life? To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool!”

48. “Much of the conversation in the country consisted of lines from television shows—both past and present.”

49. “Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Love, Relationships, and Intimacy

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - You are not alone.

50. “Many people need desperately to receive this message—‘I feel and think as much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’”

51. “I have this disease late at night sometimes—involving alcohol and the telephone.”

52. “Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.”

53. “There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”

54. “Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go around looking for it, and I think it can be poisonous. I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other, when they fight, ‘Please—a little less love, and a little more common decency.’”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - And yet, another moral occurs to me now - make love when you can.

55. “And yet, another moral occurs to me now—make love when you can. It’s good for you.”

56. “If somebody says, ‘I love you’ to me, I feel as though I had a pistol pointed at my head. What can anybody reply under such conditions but that which the pistol holder requires?”

57. “That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough—ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.”

58. “You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.”

59. “There is enough love in this world for everybody, if people will just look.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.

60. “She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies.”

61. “No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.”

62. “Alright, I’ll tell you what you did for me—you went for happy, silly, beautiful walks with me.”

63. “She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.”

64. “Americans are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Thank you for using me, even though I didn't want to be used by anybody.

65. “The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn’t want to be used by anybody.”

66. “There are too many of us and we are all too far apart.”

67. “Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately—no matter what the charmer had in mind.”

68. “All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.”

69. “But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - It was very exciting for her, taking his dignity away in the name of love.

70. “It was very exciting for her, taking his dignity away in the name of love.”

71. “I still catch myself feeling sad about things that don’t matter anymore.”

72. “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

73. “I said I wasn’t interested, and she was bright enough to say that she wasn’t really interested either. As things turned out, we both overestimated our apathies, but not that much.”

74. “I still believe that peace, and plenty, and happiness can be worked out in some way. I am a fool.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - What they're really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this, 'You are not enough people!

75. “When a couple has an argument nowadays they may think it s about money or power or sex or how to raise the kids or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this, ‘You are not enough people!’”

76. “People getting married think they’re wonderful, and that they’re going to have a baby—that’s wonderful, when actually they’re as ugly as rhinoceroses.”

77. “Just because we think we’re so wonderful doesn’t mean we really are. We could be really terrible animals and just never admit it because it would hurt so much.”

78. “That is my principal objection to life, I think. It’s too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes.”

79. “What a fool I would have been to let self-respect interfere with my happiness!”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Life and Reality

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - One of the few good things about modern times - if you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain.

80. “One of the few good things about modern times—if you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.”

81. “Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue.”

82. “Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these—a thing without precedent—is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”

83. “Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.”

84. “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber.

85. “Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”

86. “The nicest veterans, the kindest and funniest ones, the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought.”

87. “I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without expectations of rewards or punishments after I am dead.”

88. “People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore.”

89. “Wake up, you idiots! Whatever made you think that money was so valuable?”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Just because you can read, write, and do a little math, doesn't mean that you're entitled to conquer the universe.

90. “Just because you can read, write, and do a little math, doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to conquer the universe.”

91. “I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren’t going to want to go on living.”

92. “You were sick, but now you’re well again, and there’s work to do.”

93. “And a step backward, after making a wrong turn, is a step in the right direction.”

94. “If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - The bounties of space, of infinite outwardness, were three - empty heroics, low comedy, and pointless death.

95. “The bounties of space, of infinite outwardness, were three—empty heroics, low comedy, and pointless death.”

96. “Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?”

97. “You’ll forget it when you’re dead, and so will I. When I’m dead, I’m going to forget everything—and I advise you to do the same.”

98. “Until you die, it’s all life.”

99. “Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Life is no way to treat an animal.

100. “Life is no way to treat an animal.”

101. “Of course it is exhausting having to reason all the time in a universe which wasn’t meant to be reasonable.”

102. “There is no order in the world around us. We must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.”

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

104. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote -The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.

105. “The insane, on occasion, are not without their charms.”

106. “What you can become is the miracle you were born to be through the work that you do.”

107. “Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is.”

108. “The crowd, having been promised nothing, felt cheated, having received nothing.”

109. “You meet saints everywhere. They can be anywhere.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes on Knowledge, Wisdom, and Humor

Kurt Vonnegut Quote -The only difference between Hitler and Bush is that Hitler was elected.

110. “The only difference between Hitler and Bush is that Hitler was elected.”

111. “Science is magic that works.”

112. “Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”

113. “All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.”

114. “Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.

115. “A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.”

116. “If you can do no good, at least do no harm.”

117. “Live by the harmless untruths that make you brave, and kind, and healthy, and happy.”

118. “People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.”

119. “No good at life, but very funny sometimes with the commentary.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - I am eternally grateful for my knack of finding great books, some of them very funny books.

120. “I am eternally grateful for my knack of finding great books, some of them very funny books; reason enough to feel honored to be alive, no matter what else might be going on.”

121. “Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”

122. “We’re terrible animals. I think that the Earth’s immune system is trying to get rid of us, as well it should.”

123. “Everything is nothing, with a twist.”

124. “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - If I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I'm grateful that so many of those moments are nice.

125. “If I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I’m grateful that so many of those moments are nice.”

126. “I can have oodles of charm when I want to.”

127. “Round and round we spin, with feet of lead and wings of tin.”

128. “I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.”

129. “A saint is a person who behaves decently in a shockingly indecent society.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?

130. “If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?”

131. “In nonsense is strength.”

132. “The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart.”

133. “Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings—either a liberal or a conservative.”

134. “The champagne was dead.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth.

135. “New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.”

136. “How complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.”

137. “Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician.”

138. “Profanity and obscenity entitle people who don’t want unpleasant information to close their ears and eyes to you.”

139. “The biggest truth to face now—what is probably making me unfunny now for the remainder of my life—is that I don’t think people give a damn whether the planet goes or not.”

Kurt Vonnegut Quote - Earthlings went on being friendly, when they should have been thinking instead.

140. “Earthlings went on being friendly, when they should have been thinking instead.”

Were These Kurt Vonnegut Quotes Able to Shake Your Worldview?

In many of his works, Kurt Vonnegut stressed on the ironies of modern civilization. He was also a power symbol of the movement against censorship. He used his craft in order to magnify the people’s voice and emotions. Through his writing, Vonnegut helped people face harsh and cruel realities by using wry wit and humor—believing that there are certain realities one can only face head on if shed in a humorous light. However, though filled with humor, his writing spoke the harsh truth.

What truths do you live by? Did these Kurt Vonnegut quotes help you face the realities of life? Let us know what you think of his works through the comments section below.


Recommended Reading

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

Leave a Comment