The Tombling Day
There are several other stories Ray wrote that can be linked together to form a sort of general scenario of death and resurrection of sorts. One that comes to immediate mind is Death and the Maiden. The Scythe can be another one. There are others.
I have to ask:
What sort of writer writes a story like 'The Tombling Day'? By this story, his view of life and death explains where his heart is. And when he travels thru such a gamut of emotions to describe pain of loss and this strange sort of personal liberation, he is attempting to deal with the problem of mortality in a unique way.
Ray bites with one dark humorous line, where when the coffin is brought into Grandma Loblilly's house and she wants the lid be lifted after so many long decades, she says: "Now, let's lift the lid. It ain't every day you see old friends."
Ray writes of metaphorically holding one's breath while the ages pass, and writes about it as it all appears as some sort of immovable time caught in odd physical realities. But ultimately it's succumbed by these other realities of weather and wind. At the same time, the personal experience of the loss of youth and now the reality of being too old, all tumble apart slowly thru the night and 'what is' settles itself into the way things are, at least for a while, being that Grandma Lobllily is far younger and more full of life than she ever imagined.
There is so much in this story. Has Ray forgotten the energy and the love he had for life when he wrote this?
"There Was an Old Woman" sort of sums it all up in terms of attitude of this mortal existence being all there is--about a soul DETERMINED not to leave its body! No contemplation of a better spiritual body, so naturally, a living person would be "younger" than a dead one by physical standards, because the dead one has ceased its mortal existence.
dandelion, per your comment:
...then, the Question to ask Ray the next time I see him would be: "When did you give up on the belief of an immortal soul and conscious life after death?"
Unfortunately, I may not get any answer whatsoever.
philnic! Good point. Even tho Ray was raised with some Baptist upbringing, yes! He may never have understood that! Yet, some of his stories point to his possible understanding.
Does the necessarily mean that Ray has given up on an afterlife. He reminds me a bit of Henry Thoreau, who told his aunt, as he was dying, "One life at a time". Thoreau's focus on this life was not a deniel of a next one. It was a focus on this one. When I read this story, William certainly dies, but that's his body. Do you make an assumption it's his soul? Are are you saying Ray used to have more joy in life than he does now? Do you think he couldn't write this story today?
The disintegration of William is a disintegration of a body--not necessarily a soul. He joy doesn't mean (to me) that she is happy she's alive and he's DEAD. I think it is more a recognition that this life is the one she has and that he doesn't have this. She needs to be able to take joy in this life.
And isn't that one of Ray's themes? This idea that we have to learn to take joy in the moment? We have to live in the present?
It's a bit like Christ's saying: "Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought unto itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." This doesn't deny a concern on a next life, but I think it creates a gift of learning to live fully in the now.
Mr. Dark. Christ also prayed this way: In part, "...thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven..."
Christ describes action taking place right here that is exactly what is taking place in heaven. What is taking place here is a living-out a compassion that is God driven, not human driven. Such relationships are God-produced thru the working-out of the character of Christ in a person. It is this seemingly earthly behavior, driven thru a direct connection with heavenly behavior, that is lived out here.
Wouldn't you say, then, that you need to make some sort of conscious connection to such 'life' that transcends this physical life in the here and now?
Isn't one of the whole purposes of living here is to understand what's next, a life that has no burps or bumps but goes on forever? What sort of life would that be if you are just a dummy in paradise?
But if you don't know what heaven is like here, how would you expect to function once you are there? Or even how to get there?
What I am saying is I can't really find anything denoting an afterlife in Ray's writings, tho it seems to dwell underneath his prose. Often, it shimmers like those hands that seemed like speckled trout underwater in Ray's magnificent story, 'And the Sailor Home from the Sea'. But ask Ray about it, and he does not recognize what he himself is writing.
How strange is that?
I make no contribution to the religious debate, but it is not at all strange for a writer to be unaware of all the meanings of his/her writings. That's why we have critics and literary scholars - to unpick and unravel the undetected levels of meaning.
In a similar vein, I seem to recall some well-informed discussion of Nietzschean themes in Bradbury's work. Yet Bradbury denies any interest in Nietzsche.
What motivates a writer, and their conscious awareness of what they are writing, is very different from what actually exists in the texts they produce.
Apologies if I have misspelt Nietzsche!
Bradbury has told me that he often just writes stories as they come to him. He could only recall one--off the top of his head--where he consciously inserted religious ideas, and that was "The Fire Balloons". I would imagine that "The Man" and "The Messiah" were also written, consious of religious themes/symbols as he was writing.
I think critics do several things. Germane to this conversation, they (1) Identify elements that represent the author's intentions and views, and (2) They identify ideas that are freestanding of the author. At some point, works of art are substantial on their own merits--independent of the author.
Nietzsche is a good word.
Germane is a good word.
To wit, from Smokey and the Bandit:
Sheriff Branford: "The fact that you are a sheriff is not germane to the situation."
Sheriff Buford T. Justice: "The g-d damn Germans got nothin' to do with it."
The g-d damn Australians got nothin' to do with it!
Okay, but how does an author, say Ray Bradbury, handle the interpretation of those things concerning the hidden meanings and innuendoes of his writings? Dismiss them? Consider them? Or ignore them?
He respects it. He told me he has a lot of respect for scholars who study and analyze his writings. He said, I write them, and they understand more about what I'm writing than I do. I imagine if a scholar were to get him completely wrong, he'd have no difficulty pointing it out!
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