Monday, January 19, 2015

Manic Monday: Sitting with Martin and Ray

Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury
It's Monday morning. It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I'm thinking about freedom, as I usually do, but more on this day of the year than most others.

It's winter but not cold outside. I'm enjoying a cup of hot coffee anyway and reading while I eat my breakfast.

It's an older novel but one I recently felt compelled to pick up. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Have you read it?

I think I read it before, maybe when I was a teen.

If I had read it, I long forgot what it was about. My guess is it may have been a book that was assigned but that I didn't get around to. Possibly made up stuff for the test and, given my fairly immense ability to make up believable shit (hence my two professions - lawyer and writer), I got away with it.

I also guess that if I did read it, I did not appreciate it. Could not yet, at such a young age, have comprehended the ways in which a book written in the 1950's was prophetic of its future in a way that is eerie. Prescient. Scary.

I also suppose that if I read it, I did not appreciate Bradbury's poetic language. His ability to capture the mood of things with just a few words.

I keep going back to the first line: "It was a pleasure to burn."

That line is amazing. Simple. Perfect. 


That one line is followed by what may be, for me, one of the most perfect first paragraphs I've read recently in any book of any genre.

"It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning." ~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
I love it. I'm jealous of it. I wish I had written it.

I put the book down and ponder how fucking incredible it is that I'm reading the book. That he wrote it. And that over 60 years later, he is speaking to me across time, across space, across generations. How he is fueling my mind and inspiring me.

We never met, yet …

Yet I feel in him a kindred spirit. One who, like myself, revels in the freedom to think. To question. To wonder. To dare to ask "What if?"

And to take that next step and write it down, then to share it with others, all the while not knowing if they will stand behind you and support your right to speak it or hunt you down like a mob with torches scorching your behind just because you dared to say it out loud.

After all these years, the scariest thing for people like us, Ray and I, is the possibility that the freedom to speak will be snuffed out, fueled by the kerosene of hate and fear, burned in the embers of the last cry of freedom.

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