Today is Ray Bradbury's birthday. I’ve written about this extraordinary writer—this extraordinary man—many times over the years and, as a birthday tribute, here's a tapestry of selected passages from previous posts. (Yes, I've shared this here before—but it's Bradbury, so it bears repeating!)
There are few people on the face of the planet who have influenced and, more important, inspired me as much as the great Ray Bradbury. Reading a classic Bradbury short story or essay on creativity, immersing myself in his novels (especially Dandelion Wine, one of the most glorious and magical books ever written), is an experience that strips away the layers of what I call the CNN Reality—the voices of Doom and Naysaying Cynicism that seek to tell us that we're small and helpless, ordinary and afraid—and opens our hearts and minds to a deeper, truer, more joyful reality: one where life is sacred, creativity is an expression of pure delight and the universe is viewed with eyes of innocence and wonder. Bradbury's words set fire to my soul decades ago and they still do the same today.
People call Bradbury a science-fiction writer, a fantasist, but I don’t think either label applies. He’s a preacher, a rhapsodist, an interfaith—no, interdimensional—minister. I’ve rarely encountered anyone who more eloquently encapsulates the sheer sacred joy of life. When I read a Bradbury story, I not only want to race to the computer and create literary wonders of my own—the greatest gift a fellow writer can give you—I want to race out the door and up the street with my arms wide, embracing the entire universe.
Reading Bradbury—opening your mind and heart to that unique voice, that amazing spirit—it’s as if the author himself arrives at your house. The door bursts opens, nearly flying off its hinges, and Ray races into the room, enveloping you in a bear hug—nearly cracking your ribs—spinning you around in circles as he bellows with laughter and perhaps sheds a tear or two, touched, as he is, by this reunion. He’s a one-man Imagination pantheon, an explosion of gods and goddesses, each one with a unique story to tell. You get him to sit down for a minute or two, have a sip of wine, but he’s soon up on his feet, dragging you to the window, pointing to the clouds, the moon, the stars...the whole wide universe. You watch in wonder and delight as Bradbury reaches out, wraps his arms around God, yanks him down to earth and kisses Him full on the mouth.
When Ray’s done, when he’s given his last oratory, spun his last tale, he crushes you in another bear-hug then races out the door, leaving you utterly exhausted, inspired—and grateful to be alive.
Here’s a passage from Bradbury’s essay “Predicting the Past, Remembering the Future” that, for me, boils the man down to his cosmic essence:
"My own belief is that the universe exists as a miracle and that we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?
We are that audience.
We are here to see and touch, describe and move. Our job, then, is to occupy ourselves with paying back the gift."
Read Bradbury. Listen to Bradbury. Unfold your soul and let his words wash over you. If you're a budding writer, he'll fill you with burning passion for your chosen field. If you're an old hand like me, he'll make you feel like a newborn, just beginning on the most miraculous path God ever created. And if you're not a writer, I suspect he'll touch and move you in surprising ways that will echo on through your heart—and through your life.
I’ll add one final thought to those I’ve reposted above: The writers that matter most to us become our dearest friends and companions.
Happy birthday, Ray. I still treasure your friendship and always will.
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