Book That Changed My Life: The Sirens of Titan

March 21, 2014

I have a lot of tattoos.

The one that confuses people the most is the one on my right arm. It’s an image of three blue diamonds, with a yellow-gold pattern behind it.

The Book That Changed My Life - The Sirens of Titans

My tattoo

“Are those Zelda crystals?”

“Why do you have a tattoo of door hinges?”

“That tattoo is weird. What is it?”

The tattoo is inspired by a book that changed my perspective on life: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut.

Book that Changed My Life - The Sirens of Titan

Vintage cover of The Sirens

I read the book when I was in high school. It was a project for my English class, and I wasn’t excited about it. We were assigned to read any book we wanted, as long as it was written by someone on the list of authors we were given. The list probably had 50 different authors, and I chose Kurt Vonnegut at random.

The Sirens of Titan takes place far in the future, when humans are still humans but with a few more fantasy technologies at their disposal. The story leads the reader to Mars, the rings of Saturn, Mercury, and the depths of the human mind. Vonnegut masterfully portrays a world in which political corruption, religious ignorance, and war have taken over the very workings of society, and humanity finds itself caught in a web of collective choices as opposed to independent ones. I was riveted by the juxtaposition of Vonnegut’s minimalistic prose and his complex, symbolic fantasy worlds. 

At the time that I was reading this, I was just emerging from a particularly restrictive part of my life. I was six months away from moving out of my parents’ home; at the same time, I was healing from a lifelong eating disorder, and just coming to terms with the differences between my personal understanding of spirituality and the religious constraints that I was brought up with.

The book inspired me to look at my world view, and analyze if they were perspectives brought on by my individual thoughts or by the thoughts of those around me.

After a period of reflection, I decided to start attending new and different churches. I decided that vegetarianism was a good fit for the way I felt about the ethics of food choices. I also decided that it was important to recognize that the negative feelings I had about my physical appearance were feelings that I had accumulated from those around me. My appearance was something for other people, never for myself. Recognizing that helped me to heal from my eating disordered thoughts.

The book also taught me a lesson on love, which is why I have the harmoniums tattooed on my arm.

In The Sirens, two men, Boaz and Unk, get trapped in the caves of Mercury when their space ship nosedives into the planet.

They’re trapped in these caves, and the spaceship has enough supplies for them to survive for a long while. The only things in these caves are the harmoniums, blue kite-shaped creatures who say nothing, and do nothing. They don’t speak, and their lives are focused only on feeding from the cave’s vibrations.  They cling to the yellow-gold walls of the cave, occasionally inching along the walls to find a better place to feel the planet’s vibrations, and get a better ‘meal.’

When Boaz plays music, he discovers that the harmoniums get excited and feed off the music, too. While Boaz spends his days ‘feeding’ the harmoniums with music, Unk wanders around the caves, infuriated, restlessly searching for an escape.

Years pass. Finally, Unk finds an escape. He urges Boaz to get into the spaceship, so they can go home.

Boaz refuses to leave. He says,

“I found me a place where I can do good without doing any harm, and I can see I’m doing good, and them I’m doing good for know I’m doing it, and they love me, Unk, as best they can. I found me a home.”

I was so inspired by this interpretation of love, that I decided to get the image of harmoniums tattooed on my arm for the rest of my life. Every time I look at them, I am reminded of this one book that changed thoughts I’ve always had about the universe, and my place in it. It reminds me to find my cave of harmoniums– and to have the wisdom, and courage, to love.

The Book That Changed My Life: The Sirens of Titan

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Vegan Beer Bread Recipe

My WWOOF experience in South of France and Ireland


Photo: Abbie Zulock; cdrummbks via Flickr; Peaceful Dumpling

Abbie Zulock is a writer based out of Seattle, WA, currently traveling throughout Europe, working on organic farms and exploring vegan delicacies around the continent. Abbie is also an experienced professional tarot card reader and when she's not writing or traveling the globe, she can be found hanging out with her black lab, Jackson!


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