Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: fahrenheit 451

Hopeful Dystopian Fiction: Fahrenheit 451

“Michelle, come on. Hopeful dystopian fiction? I mean, dystopian means bad…very bad.” I know, but give me a minute here. Things can be bad and there can still be a bright future glimmering inside, maybe not for the characters but for their children or children’s children.

Possible SPOILER ALERT, my dears!

So, I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 and I start thinking maybe I remembered less of this book than I thought. I remember Montag meeting the girl and the hound is chasing him. I vaguely remember him getting away, but I don’t how and I’m only halfway through the book. Maybe I didn’t finish reading it last time?

And then the story is over. What?

It turns out that the 60th Anniversary Edition has bonus material. Sweet! The last 100 pages are “History, Context, and Criticism.” They include critical reviews and a few letters from Ray Bradbury. Those were my favorite! Every word I read from him, the more I love him.

His novels and short stories are not complex but hold so much power.

There was one little thing that stuck out to me on this time around, the “seashells.” He’s describing earbuds that people listen to constantly in Fahrenheit 451. Strange because right before I started reading the book, I had commented to a friend at lunch that everywhere I looked people were wearing those damn wireless earbuds. They look like remote control people.

I’ve never been able to listen to anything on those things. I feel vulnerable when they are in my ears, cut off from the sounds of the rest of the world, all hails and warnings too. I can’t focus on what I’m listening to. When people walk by with them on, it’s clear they want no contact from me. It’s creepy. Like we’re all alone…together.

In 1953, he wrote an article for “The Nation,” called “The Day After Tomorrow: Why Science Fiction?”

“So much depends, of course, on what the individual hears when he gives himself over to the electronic tides breaking on the shore of his Seashell. The voice of conscience and reason? An echo of morality? A new thought? A fresh idea? A morsel of philosophy? Or bias, hatred, fear, prejudice, nightmare, lies, half-truths, and suspicions?”

I don’t use earbuds, but I do listen to podcasts while I drive, as you probably have read in one of my Podcast Roundups. There are so many choices out there and I could fill my time in a million different ways, but I choose book discussions, philosophy, something that will help my reasoning, give me a new thought or a fresh idea, not add to my confirmation bias or stir up angry feelings of injustice.

And what about our smart phones with social media feeds? He couldn’t have seen that from way back there, but I think his feelings about in-ear radios match up quite nicely. Who or what you “follow” makes all the difference in the world.

One more little thing and then I’ll let you go.

“Is there…a delicate interplay where the society does not crush the individual but where the individual realizes that without his cooperation society would fly to pieces through the centrifugal force of anarchy?”

That’s something to think about, isn’t it? Personally, I’m a fan of classic anarchy (meaning “an absence of any form of political authority”) and prefer it to what we are currently running headlong into, but I get what he’s saying. Living in a community is a give and take dance. The bigger the community, the more complicated it becomes. You can’t run onto the dance floor and start a mosh pit while the ballroom dancers are gliding across the floor without inflicting injuries. And, ethically, we can’t force everyone to dance the same dance at the same time, so what do we do? Make space I suppose, take turns, create contracts, set up personal boundaries.

Reading Fahrenheit 451 after George Orwell’s 1984 was soothing. Sure, it’s dystopian, a cautionary tale about where we may be headed, but with a hopeful ending. I closed the book thinking, “See? Even if we screw things up royally, we’ll come back again.” Humanity has been much worse off in the past. I mean, the Dark Ages?!

If you keep your eye on the bigger picture, the one that includes each and every one of us as a thread in larger tapestry, things aren’t so overwhelming. Each of our lives adds a bit of color or texture to the design. Our little piece of string doesn’t seem like much but without us, the whole thing starts to unravel.

Instead of worrying so much about where I fit or what others are doing, I’ve decided to focus on my own life and connect with the people around me. Like the outliers in Fahrenheit 451, I do my best to memorize what I can and pass it forward to the next person.

If you’d like to read more of my posts about this book, pop back over to “Fahrenheit 451: New Read.”

Tyranny of the Majority or “We Vote Against You”

Tyranny of the majority, otherwise known as “mob rule,” is no way to build a nation. A straight democracy, one without limits to its power, is a tyranny as much as any dictator or king.

Where do I even start with this one? It’s like the author could see me struggling from 80 years away.

The words are hard to gather. Once again, I’m sitting here wishing you were here. When we speak face to face, your reactions to my words help my limping ideas along. Your questions and insights, even when contradicting mine, give my mind the steam to organize and move forward at a faster rate. Is it the same for you? I feel that it is.

Reading that line from the book, I’m reminded of that cliché everyone’s mom is reported to say, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?”

I hope not. But then, if everyone found a great new way to communicate, I’d be happy to join the majority and thrive along with them. No one wants to be left out, or left behind, but sometimes we do need to swim against the tide and strike out on our own to find what is true. So how do we know when to stay with the crowd and when to forget our own path alone?

I believe it’s only by conversation, in person, through books and articles, and even through comments online, if we could learn to better listen. But lately, (and by lately, I mean the past five or six years) online in the past, and now more and more often in person, I get the feeling that no one wants to hear the question “Why?”

When the dreaded question is asked, I recoil at the verbal and written violence thrown at them from every side. It’s as if the very idea of questioning anything any “authority” says is an attack on that authority and must be defended at all costs.

How have we come to this point? And please don’t just yell back, “Social media is doing it to us!” It’s too easy an answer. Besides, who is behind the social media? Us. We are the ones reacting in terrible ways to posts. We are the ones throwing the word grenades into the fray. And we are the ones packing our comments with shrapnel in hopes of causing the most damage to our perceived enemies.

We’ve all fragmented into tiny tribes of identity attempting to vote any opposing group or another out of existence.

Personally, I have hope that things will get better again. The world may not be ending, only changing…again. Reading Ray Bradbury’s words reminds me that polarizing arguments like ours have been had before and we came through. The world did not end in a nuclear holocaust, and we didn’t run out of food.

There are loads of statistics and trends out there that point to things getting better, not worse. Authors like Matt Ridley in The Rational Optimist helped me see that. His blog is a wonderful read as well.

The tyranny of the majority has always been a problem for humans. Mobs suck in almost every way. Humans are complex creatures. We crave to be part of a community for our mental health. There is safety in numbers and “many hands make light work” is a truism. But we also need to be true to ourselves, and each of us is different.

When we lived in small communities of distant relatives, it was easier. We generally only fought to the death with those outside our land. Things are different now. Technology has made our world feel so much smaller. So many people, backgrounds, religions, cultures, languages, etc., all thrown into the pot together. There are bound to be serious miscommunications.

Is patience all we need? A little more listening. Maybe.

It reminds me of Star Trek’s “universal translator.” It must have taken decades to develop that and work out all the bugs. If you’ve watched “Enterprise” and “Original Series” you’ll remember some epic mess-ups with it.

Technology is bringing this world is moving forward into unknown territory very quickly. Can we keep the peace long enough to begin to understand each other better? Or will we tear each other apart in fear first?

Go back to my first post “Fahrenheit 451: New Read” to read more.

Fahrenheit 451: New Read

I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury years ago and the only thing I remember of it is that it was stressful to read but not as heart racing as 1984 and burning books but not why.

Fahrenheit 451

Sidenote: Ray Bradbury was at a library event that I was representing a statewide homeschool advocacy group at. He read from The Halloween Tree and stood there, in awe. I couldn’t believe it was him and tried to be cool. The woman I was manning our booth with thought it was funny that I was so struck. The moment I got home, I went and found a copy of that book and read it to my kids. It’s one of my favorites.

P.S. The older I get, the more I wonder if any of my memories are true or just imagined. If I don’t have a picture of it, I feel like I can’t be certain it happened. It’s a tad upsetting.

Back to Fahrenheit 451!

Recently, I was searching for it on my bookshelf because my son had read 1984 and was looking for something similar.

I couldn’t find it. I guess I must have loaned it out or donated it when we moved to the desert and I had this wild idea about diminishing my library due to lack of space and fear of moving hundreds of heavy boxes out to the desert.

Don’t worry. That will never happen again.

I went to order a new copy online and decided to try getting a used one again. Bad idea.

An Image of my Current Copy

Apparently “good condition” means different things to different people, so from now on I will only buy used books in person so that I can thumb through and be sure it doesn’t look like this. I’m tired of paying $4 or $5 for a book that looks like someone was doodling in it. I love books with notes, but this is a tad overkill. And, just some little advice, pencil is so much nicer for the next reader because it’s more easily overlooked.

I looked up the old movie from 1966, thinking I might try watching it again. As I recall, it was a pretty boring presentation, but pretty close to the telling of the book. As I was searching for it, I found a new version from 2018, so I think I’ll give that one a try when I’m done reading.

I’m reading the 60th anniversary edition (2013) with an introduction by Neil Gaiman. Introductions are my new favorite part of the book. I’m fascinated by the context they give.

“Ideas – written ideas – are special. They are the way we transmit our stories and our thoughts from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”

That’s why I write here on this blog every day. I tell my story each day, little by little, inspired to the surface by the words and thoughts of others.

I’m sixty pages into Fahrenheit 451 and I’m already spilling over with things to comment on and talk about. I wish you were here with me so we could read it together. Each time I come across a line that strikes my soul, I could look over at you and say, “Did you read this part?!” and we could talk about it, get some more coffee, maybe a donut, and then keep reading.

Have you read it? Did you see the movie? What did you think? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Read more at
Tyranny of the Majority or “We Vote Against You”
Hopeful Dystopian Fiction: Fahrenheit 451

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