Thinking Thursday: Ray Bradbury on Modern Life

There is nothing new under the sun (according to the Bible), and I was amazed to find a discussion on life in an imaginary future, which was written decades ago, sounding scarily like life today.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, is about a future where books are banned, and television now displays on three or four whole walls of your living room, feeding you mindless banalities and fake excitement. “The family” are the characters in a soap opera written to make you feel they are talking to you personally. As promised yesterday, take time to read and reflect on this extract:

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They showed the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people only wax room faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam. Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the Earth. Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality. Do you know the legend of Hercules and Antaeus, the giant wrestler, who strength was incredible so long as he stood firmly on the Earth. But when he was held, rootless, in midair, by Hercules, he perished easily. If there isn’t something in that legend for us today, in this city, in our time, then I am completely insane. Well, there we have the first thing I said we needed. Quality, texture of information.”
“And the second?”
“Leisure.”
“Oh, but we’ve plenty of off-hours.”
“Off-hours, yes. But time to think? If you’re not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can’t think of anything else but the danger, then you’re playing some game or sitting in some room where you can’t argue with the four-walls televisor. Why? The televisor is “real”. It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, “What nonsense!””
“Only the “family” is “people”.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“My wife says books aren’t “real”.”
“Thank God for that. You can shut them, say, “Hold on a moment.” You play God to it. But who has ever torn himself from the claw that encloses you when you drop a seed in a TV parlour? It grows you any shape it wishes! It is an environment as real as the world. It becomes and is the truth. Books can be beaten down with reason. But with all my knowledge and scepticism, I have never been able to argue with a one-hundred-piece symphony orchestra, full-colour, three dimensions, and I being in and part of those incredible parlours. As you see, my parlour is nothing but four plaster walls. And here,” he held out two small rubber plugs. “For my ears when I ride the subway-jets.”

“… Where do we go from here? Would books help us?”
“Only if the third necessary thing could be given us. Number one, as I said, quality of information. Number two: leisure to digest it. And number three: the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.”

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About Ann Marie Thomas

Married since 1974, Christian since 1986, 4 children, 4 grand children, disabled with fibromyalgia but was working almost full time until a stroke in May 2010 changed my life completely. Writing poetry and making up stories since I was a child, I only started to write seriously when my children were grown. My main ambition is to write science fiction, but along the way I got distracted by local history and poetry about my stroke. Taking early retirement gave me the chance to concentrate on my writing. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, was published in print and ebook at Easter 2012. The success of Alina led to the publication of Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John in September 2013, and The Magna Carta Story at Easter 2015. I am still writing science fiction - a series of novels called Flight of the Kestrel. For all my author news, see me author blog at www.annmariethomas.me.uk
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