I suppose in some ways this post should go in my “Book of the Month” pages, but because I want to do more than simply review a book, it’s going here.
Recently I came across an article that suggested that there might be wisdom in revisiting and re-reading some of the books we were required to read in high school. Most of the books on the list I knew, although there were some I was not familiar with, and I decided to follow this suggestion.
The first book I decided to re-read was one that I remembered being very intrigued by–Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. My memory of it was that it dealt with a time when firemen did not put out fires but instead had the responsibility of actually burning books…that one fireman ultimately rebelled against doing that and found himself joining a community where each individual basically was a book–focused on remembering the words for some future time. I really didn’t remember much beyond that.
As I read it this time, however, there is so much more to it!
Yes, that is the basic story, but it’s also a cautionary tale. What happens when we decide we’re tired of struggling with hard issues? when we no longer want to worry about unpleasant news? when we want to be “entertained” all the time? What happens to those “uncomfortable” people (i.e., writers) who insist that we engage with philosophical questions? with issues of how to live? with questions of what life is all about?
What happens when we become blind to the world around us? And what keeps some people from falling victim to that blindness so that they are able to raise uncomfortable questions for the rest of us that cause us to open our own eyes?
One statement Bradbury made jarred me: Fill your eyes with wonder…live as though you only had ten seconds left to live. (Slightly paraphrased.) What would I do if I lived that way? What would I see? How would I react?
I’ve heard other versions of that statement–suggesting that I live each day as though it were my last, since we never know how much time we will have. But to live as though I only had ten seconds? What would I want to see? to say? What wonders would I regret seeing? (And how would I define what is a “wonder”?)
If we ever reach the point where books are for burning, I hope that I would find myself part of the community that seeks to preserve instead of destroy. What book would I be? I don’t know…that’s a question to ponder!