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Bokononism is the fictional religion practiced by many of the characters in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle.

It is based on living by the untruths that make one happy, called foma. Many of the sacred texts of Bokononism were written in the form of calypsos. The foundation of Bokononism is that all religion, including Bokononism and all its texts, is formed entirely of lies; however, if you believe and adhere to these lies, you will live a happy life.

Bokonon, a character in the novel, is the founder of the religion. He was born Lionel Boyd Johnson. "Bokonon" was the way the natives of San Lorenzo, the fictional Caribbean island where the shipwrecked Johnson started his religion, pronounced his family name.

Bokonon attended the London School of Economics and Political Science, only for his education to be cut short by World War I.

[edit] Terminology

The religion of the people of San Lorenzo, called Bokononism, encompasses concepts unique to the novel, with San Lorenzan names such as:

  • karass - a group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God's will. The people can be thought of as like the fingers that support a Cat's Cradle.
  • duprass - a karass that consists of only two people. This is one of the few kinds of karass about which we can have any reliable knowledge. The two members of a duprass live lives that revolve around each other, and are therefore often married. "A true duprass can't be invaded, not even by children born of such a union." The novel cites the example of "Horlick Minton, the New American Ambassador to the Republic of San Lorenzo, and his wife, Claire." The two members of a duprass always die within a week of each other.
  • granfalloon - a false karass; i.e., a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist. An example is "Hoosiers"; Hoosiers are people from Indiana, and Hoosiers have no true spiritual destiny in common, so really share little more than a name.
  • wampeter - the central, perhaps unknown, motivation of a karass
  • foma - harmless untruths; lies that bring one comfort
  • wrang-wrang - Someone who steers a Bokononist away from their line of perception
  • vin-dit - a sudden shove in the direction of Bokononism
  • saroon - to acquiesce to a vin-dit
  • stuppa - a fogbound child (i.e. an idiot)
  • duffle - the destiny of thousands of people placed on one stuppa
  • sin-wat - a person who wants all of somebody's love for him/herself
  • pool-pah - wrath of God or "shit storm"
  • Busy, busy, busy - words Bokononists whisper upon witnessing an example of how interconnected everything is
  • boko-maru - the supreme act of worship of the Bokononists, which is an intimate act consisting of prolonged physical contact between the naked soles of the feet of two persons.
  • Now I will destroy the whole world... - What a Bokononist says before committing suicide.

[edit] References

Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction: p 236 "In Bokonon, it is written that 'peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.'"

Bernard Hare's Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew: p238 "I think we should make Bokononism the official religion of Ashtrayland, don't you, Urban?"

[edit] External links

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