But the subject of war never came up until Billy brought it up himself. Somebody in the zoo crowd asked him through the lecturer what the most valuable thing he had learned on Tralfamadore was so far, and Billy replied, “How the inhabitants of a whole planet can live in peace! As you know, I am from a planet that has been engaged in senseless slaughter since the beginning of time. I myself have seen the bodies of schoolgirls who were boiled alive in a water tower by my own countrymen, who were proud of fighting pure evil at the time.” This was true. Billy saw the boiled bodies in Dresden. “And I have lit my way in a prison at night with candles from the fat of human beings who were butchered by the brothers and fathers of those schoolgirls who were boiled. Earthlings must be the terrors of the Universe! If other planets aren’t now in danger from Earth, they soon will be. So tell me the secret so I can take it back to Earth and save us all: How can a planet live at peace?”

Billy felt that he had spoken soaringly. He was baffled when he saw the Tralfamadorians close their little hands on their eyes. He knew from past experience what this meant: He was being stupid.

“Would—would you mind telling me—” he said to the guide, much deflated, “what was so stupid about that?”

“We know how the Universe ends—” said the guide, “and Earth has nothing to do with it, except that it gets wiped out, too.”

“How—how does the Universe end?” said Billy.

“We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears.” So it goes.

“If you know this,” said Billy, “isn’t there some way you can prevent it? Can’t you keep the pilot from pressing the button?”

“He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way.”

“So—” said Billy gropingly, “I suppose that the idea of preventing war on Earth is stupid, too.”

“Of course.”

“But you do have a peaceful planet here.”

“Today we do. On other days we have wars as horrible as any you’ve ever seen or read about. There isn’t anything we can do about them, so we simply don’t look at them. We ignore them. We spend eternity looking at pleasant moments—like today at the zoo. Isn’t this a nice moment?”

“Yes.”

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

“Um,” said Billy Pilgrim.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

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