Cat’s CradleKurt VonnegutContents

24. What a Wampeter Is

Which brings me to the Bokononist concept of a wampeter.

A wampeter is the pivot of a karass. No karass is without a wampeter, Bokonon tells us, just as no wheel is without a hub.

Anything can be a wampeter: a tree, a rock, an animal, an idea, a book, a melody, the Holy Grail. Whatever it is, the members of its karass revolve about it in the majestic chaos of a spiral nebula. The orbits of the members of a karass about their common wampeter are spiritual orbits, naturally. It is souls and not bodies that revolve. As Bokonon invites us to sing:

Around and around and around we spin,
With feet of lead and wings of tin.

And wampeters come and wampeters go, Bokonon tells us.

At any given time a karass actually has two wampeters—one waxing in importance, one waning.

And I am almost certain that while I was talking to Dr. Breed in Ilium, the wampeter of my karass that was just coming into bloom was that crystalline form of water, that blue-white gem, that seed of doom called ice-nine.

While I was talking to Dr. Breed in Ilium, Angela, Franklin, and Newton Hoenikker had in their possession seeds of ice-nine, seeds grown from their father’s seed— chips, in a manner of speaking, off the old block.

What was to become of those three chips was, I am convinced, a principal concern of my karass.

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