Ray Bradbury

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

I came across this quote today from Ray Bradbury on my Google homepage, and it reminded me how much I enjoyed reading Fahrenheit 451 in high school.  In general, I don’t enjoy reading science fiction – although I have to confess that Josh has introduced to me the joys of Robert Heinlein – but I remember being very moved by this book in a similar way that I was moved by his quote above. It forces you to think out of the box, to confront the reality of our world, and to take a long, hard look at oneself in the mirror.

In Fahrenheit 451, a book-burning fireman goes through a crisis of conscience. In the world he occupies, the appearance of happiness is more important than the actual pursuit of it. His wife pressures him to work harder burning books so she can buy yet another TV for their home. Independent thought is discouraged in this world, and real emotion is to be avoided at all cost. (Sound familiar?) The fireman begins to see the error of his ways when his sixteen-year-old neighbor, who is enthralled by books and is curious about the world, mysteriously disappears. He begins to hide books in his home so as to avoid burning them, but he is discovered, and ends up joining an outlaw band of scholars who commit the contents of their books to memory, waiting for the time society will once again welcome the wisdom of literature.

He writes:

Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs…. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.

In the day-to-day grind of our existence, we get so caught up in the here- and-now that we often lose sight of ourselves and the world around us. When we ask an acquaintance on the street a casual and breezy, “How are you?”, how many of us really want to stick around to hear the answer? Our financial situation, our social status, our appearance – these are often the concerns that dominate our thoughts and hearts; not reading between the lines, looking behind our friend’s plastered smile to see what is really going on beneath the surface.

We are so busy all the time that there is no time left in our chaotic lives to just “be.” I don’t think that people even know anymore what it is that makes them happy – they may provide a stock answer – like a good career or a comfortable lifestyle – but if you unravel the many layers, are we really happy?

 Do we have a duty to the world to care what is going on, or should we leave that burden to people who are actually paid to care? I recall last summer during the Lebanon war walking the streets of Modi’in, and thinking to myself, “You would never know, to look at people’s faces, that there was a war going on.” I remember one day feeling extremely depressed about the war, and someone I know came over to me, and seeing that I was visibly upset, asked me if everything was okay. I told her that I just couldn’t get what was going on out of my head. She responded, “It can’t be that bad, right? I mean, you’ll be able to move into your new place soon, won’t you?” She automatically presumed I was referring to the fact that we were waiting at that time to move into our new apartment, not the fact that people up north were being ousted from their homes, forced to uproot themselves, because of the horrors of war. I was in shock.

On a less somber note, it is my Hebrew birthday coming up in a few days – woohoo – and I have to think of a fun and exciting activity to celebrate with my hubby the last year of my twenties. If anyone has any suggestions for a fun night out – preferably either in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv – that doesn’t involve eating out or bowling, let me know. My husband loves to eat out, so his suggestions always involve restaurants. We want to do something a bit different this year. Thanks!

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yitz..

14 years ago

umm it’s Farenheit 451

you had me do a double take thinking perhaps the book was Farenheit 401 and the movie Farenheit 451, but in fact they were both Farenheit 451. As the lore goes (never experimented myself) 451 degrees Farenheit is the temperature at which books spontaneously combust.

Sorelle

14 years ago

Yitz, typo duly noted and corrected – thanks! Sounds like an interesting experiment. Actually, I was just testing to see if everyone was on their toes, so if you want a job as a proofreader, it’s yours!

ANDRE

13 years ago

i read tghat at school as part of the curriculum and loved it. remember the car/glass smash-up places to dispel public aggression? imagine getting allocated a really dreadful book to memorise like some cheap horror or something.
here’s a good fact- if all new publications of written material were constantly added to an ever increasing line, you would have to travel at 90mph to keep up with it! i like your observations sorelle.

Sorelle

13 years ago

Hi Andre, Thanks for dropping by, and for your comment. It really is an amazing book.