A very shrewd response, Mr. Dark. I agree on the point about the difference between the symbolic indeterminacy of literature vs. the precision demanded by philosophical analysis. Literature embodies within it various models of reality, and we both agree that we can demand precision in our analyses of these models even though we would never demand of the artist an unequivocal advocacy of a particular position. However, by making this demand on ourselves, we can overcome our own inhibitions in getting to the bottom of the object of our scrutiny.
My personal acquaintance with Bradbury's views suffers from several decades of separation from his work. I'm going on memories of books I haven't read since some of you were born, most likely. But my immediate stimulus was an investigation into THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and related stories, though I have had thoughts about the prescience of FAHRENHEIT 451, and generally about the boldness in the repressive 1950s of Bradbury's radical critique of American society. I actually never read "The Messiah"--I don't remember reading it--until a few days ago. Same with "The Fire Balloons." Instead, I was going on a vivid impression I did not forget even after two decades of the scene from the miniseries. I've rarely seen such a brilliant expression of a philosophical concept. Indeed, ideas matter more to me than special effects, which is why I find SF movies so insufferable, including the recent dumbed-down version of SOLARIS.
The priest's confrontation with the Martian Jesus was brilliant. It was all about his need, his projections, and the effects of his subjective needs, i.e. the torture of others. This is a profound observation you never ever see in popular culture. And if this Martian Jesus were the "real" Jesus, the message would be the same: why do you continue to torture me with your need? Because of YOUR need, I am held hostage to this form and am forced to suffer. Brilliant!
So the story stuck with me, as it resonated with my world view, a rare experience for me in watching TV. But it didn't even occur to me until reading these stories and reviewing this thread that the story in its religious liberalism still respects conventional piety much more than it deserves. Not that I would demand Bradbury rewrite his story to unequivocally condemn the priest, but you see it's just this aspect of Bradbury's work that demands further analysis. Because in it there may be some conventional thinking, sentimentalism, or even psychological inhibition (Midwestern?) that may explain how Bradbury handles his material across the board. I never thought about this before, but this consideration opens up new territory, to me at any rate.
If you haven't read them, or haven't read them recently, check out "The Man" and "The Blue Bottle", also.
"The Blue Bottle" is in "The Stories of Ray Bradbury" and in "I Sing the Body Electric".
"The Man" is in "A Medicine For Melancholy".
These two stories are heavy in religious themes and both deal, in part, with the question of an aspect of religion I find compelling -- the idea of religion as a quest.
In both there is a "resting place" and an avoidance of the idea of moral or epistemelogical relativity. I really enjoy both stories.
Having been away from this post for last 24 hours, I am 'AMAZED' how much nonsense and... a lot of good stuff combine into a fitful blend.
People react. They get disturbed. They write, "You know, we don't need THIS stuff here. I find it EVERWHERE." etc etc.
Plain ol' Wacky!
If it wasn't for the protective allure of the prose of Mr. Ray Bradbury, the world would be spilling over with an increased number of emotional indigents in search of meaning. Wipe away the love of Bradbury, and you will find a huge pile of creeps in frantic search of basic crawling ability.
I am positive no one 'really reads' my posts, except three or four. Some arrogant posters don't have an original idea in their head except the most stupid reactions.
To some of you pitiful blind-sighted people out there, I say this: Christ and Bradbury and Religion are so intertwined in my entire life, they are 'inseperable'. Got that? If you didn't have a clue about that before, you do now.
I have a hard time understanding the anger in some of these posts.
Christ teaches that the highest manifestation of God is love -- in fact, it states that God IS Love. The biblical definitions of love include forgiveness, patience, longsuffering, kindness, speaking words of edification, etc. I don't see name-calling and personal attacks in ANY New Testament definition of love or fruits of the spirit.
As for Bradbury, he is the epitome of tolerance and open-mindedness. With only rare exceptions do I ever read of him name-calling or casting aspersions. Yet, he is plenty opinionated!
In court the lawyers have a phrase I have always liked when differences come up. They say, "This is a point upon which reasonable men can disagree."
Again, back to my patron saint Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?"
Forgive me if I quote you out of context but it seems to me you find these virtues - conventional thinking, sentimentalism, or even psychogical inhibition - as faults, somehow. I don't get it. I mean, as Mr. Dark later says, "As for Bradbury, he is the epitome of tolerance and open-mindedness." Seems to me his gentle treatment of the priests in the stories referenced are actually good things. Or am I taking your meaning wrong? It seems to me that when you say "the story in its religious liberalism still respects conventional piety much more than it deserves" you're taking the same intolerant view that you seem to frown upon.
As for the stories in question, er, um, did you or did you not like them simply because they're good stories? (I mean, I did. All this hullaballoo is fascinating. Really. But, dang it, they're just plain good stories, as well. And that's what they should be read for, right? All this other stuff is just icing on the cake.)
A while back Nard, you wrote:
"Now tell me, is it all in my mind?" following a moving description of your faith and how it has changed your life.
Later, you wrote,
"I am positive no one 'really reads' my posts, except three or four. Some arrogant posters don't have an original idea in their head except the most stupid reactions."
First of all, if I'm not in that three or four, I damn well should be because I take what you have to offer to this site very seriously and read it very closely.
To say that this "purposefully devalues the enormity of Christ" assumes that I believe what you do, and then maliciously tear it down. That is not true. I don't believe what you believe, Nard. I'm not being antagonistic about it, it's just a fact. I don't believe that I've ever read a single word of pure truth in any book. I've read a lot that is Akin to truth, that I feel points me to it. Nevertheless, there are certain ideas that I have, reinforced by(not created by) words. I don't know how many of those ideas are tied up in my own egotism, and life is a battle to strip that egotism away, piece by piece. What's left- that, I believe, is truth. I simply don't believe in the nature of Scripture, which I see as only guidance.
Is "that" all in "my" head? What makes my head different from yours, besides all the accumen that life heaps on it?
Ralph. I distrust people who are antagonistic to individual religions. It smacks of life experience, rather than objective thought. I will not presume to know, however, where you are coming from.
I don't know if Bradbury is "too lenient" on the priest. He accepts all of his characters as fallible human beings. If we're looking at this from an angle that damns the priest, who, like all of us, is a human victim of his needs, than I think we may be moving away from, rather than towards, an accurate appreciation of Bradbury's intent in this story.
As for the difference between Philosophy and Fiction, Mr. Dark, I like philosphy a lot, but give me fiction any day. I think that symbols and images exist to replace as-yet-unperfect language- like Japanese Poetry, where sometimes the image of the poem Is the poem itself. You mentioned that nailing down Bradbury is a zen-like effort. Stars dim out of sight if we look directly at them, but when we unfocus ourselves and do look at the whole picture as one, then the stars become clear.
I try to balance between the two. We "nail down" Bradbury because it's fascinating and it helps us understand and appreciate him more. Who wants to be "nailed down", though? Sounds uncomfortable at best. I think we need to keep our ability to look at the picture as a picture, and (zen-like) not to "aim" at all...
Nard and others,
I can't help but wonder if this intense subject, could be dispelled by simply examining the following statement...
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Nard Kordell:
"To some of you pitiful blind-sighted people out there, I say this: Christ and Bradbury and Religion are so intertwined in my entire life, they are 'inseperable'. Got that? If you didn't have a clue about that before, you do now."
First off, Nard, calling anyone here "pitiful blind-sighted people," is uncalled for. At Dan B.'s suggestion, "Let's stop the ankle-bitting!
But what you did say that many of us completely understand and quite possibly, agree with, is your belief that Bradbury and Religion and Christ are intertwined and inseperable in (your)life.
What I did want to suggest is that your internal struggle with that very fact displaces some of your core beliefs and so you thrash it about on this forum to try and come to terms with it. As Mr. Dark and others try to disect and probe the sheer implications of that phenomenon, our differences are bound to surface. I'm as guilty as anyone on this issue.
This forum provides us all a privledge of sharing insights with thoughtful, yet diverse individuals. Let's not let that same diversity which draws us back destroy the fellowship that's kept this site so devoted to the spirit of Ray Bradbury's writings.
I will get hold of the books containing the stories suggested as soon as I can get to the library. (There's no telling where my Bradbury is buried, it's been so many decades since I've seen it.) Then maybe I'll have some feedback.
I cannot pursue a conversation that is predicated on an opposition to critical thought. Hence questions like why can't you just appreciate it as a story and don't worry about what it means, or what's wrong with conventional thought, are conversation-stoppers for me. As for distrust, I distrust people who don't think and who oppose critical thought.
The question of leniency to the priest opens up an avenue of deliberation which several people would like to shut down. "Tolerance" in this case means the destruction of critical thought and the endorsement of repressive institutions that have 2000 years of unspeakable crimes behind them. The question here is not to force ex post facto RB to write the story some of us might have preferred to be written, but to get at the assumptions behind his treatment. In reality, there are several kinds of priests: the sincere kind portrayed in Bradbury's stories, political priests of the right and left, tolerant priests, fanatical, authoritarian priests, child molesting priests, passive and dependent priests who join the church like others join the army so that they will be told what to do, etc. But whichever type you pick to focus on, you ought to consider that person's relationship to an authoritarian, retrograde institution like the Catholic Church. (Not that others don't serserve the same criticism, but this reprobate institution is the one udner consideration now.) In other words, instead of taking people at face value, their underlying assumptions about their place in the world have to be questioned, by me anyway. But feel free to go back to sleep, if you like.
RB happened to pick one or more of the better priests: showing their limitations still leaves them off the hook because of their sincerity and alleged good intentions. I'm not saying that it is a defect of the story that RB didn't treat his priests differently: it's that, by considering a range of possibilities, we can get at the assumptions underlying the story and therefore the "evidence" given us to react to in the various ways that we do. I was quite content to accept "The Messiah" (in its transmuted televised incarnation) as is for over two decades, because what I thought it did it did brilliantly. I still do, but now I ask more questions, after reading through this thread, in which I find the analysis of Mr. Dark to be very useful and everyone else's remarks to be completely useless. The priest is shown to be reacting to his subjective need, which means victimizing the Martian "Jesus." But it might as well be the real Jesus: even the most sincere worshipper is a parasite feeding off the misery of this poor deified Hebrew instead of standing on his own two feet. The way RB dramatizes this insight is a stroke of genius. So this can be a basis of further deliberation: what are the other consequences of such belief systems and the institutions that support them, even in their most benign moments? Does Bradbury enable us to push even further, does he push further himself, does he backtrack? Does his tolerance in the final analysis put the brakes on critique being carried to its ultimate conclusions?
Again, he need not have done more than he did in this one story. But as readers we ought to do more. If we don't, then we remain naive. You of course have this right, but I am not obligated to keep quiet about what I think for fear of offending your delicate sensibilities, which in the final analysis may not be well-intentioned either.
Um, okay, I guess. But I don't think anyone here is opposed to critical thought; an opposing view doesn't mean anyone's trying to stifle yours. It just seems that when you use phrases like "I distrust people who don't think," and "repressive institutions that have 2000 years of unspeakable crimes behind them," and "political priests of the right and left, tolerant priests, fanatical, authoritarian priests, child molesting priests, passive and dependent priests who join the church like others join the army so that they will be told what to do," and "an authoritarian, retrograde institution like the Catholic Church," and "even the most sincere worshipper is a parasite feeding off the misery of this poor deified Hebrew instead of standing on his own two feet," you're baiting us for a some kind of response, any response, rather than sincerely and honestly engaging in debate. (I say honestly in that I believe your choice of words indicates you have some unresolved "issues" with religion. Pretty smart, huh?)
No, my point earlier, about enjoying the stories for themselves, isn't an admonishment for delving deeply into the stories. I think any work of art invites deep inspection. But I think to plum the depths and get lost in the reason why you enjoyed the story in the first place - it was a great read! - is to do yourself a dis-service. And I think Ray would agree. After all, in Zen in the Art of Writing, he encourages us not to work but to play in the fields of the Lord.
Anway, feel the way you want to feel, think the way you want to think, but don't cry oppression when someone takes a differenct point of view.
Just a general comment. I agree that we read the stories for enjoyment, but I think we also can study them for enlightenment. I see no need for one to exclude the other. My temperment is such that studying them is enjoyable -- so I get enjoyment in both activities. A double win for me.
I also agree that philosophy and literature are different, but I think they both elucidate the human condition, and that they both warrant study and reflection. I also think they are both better when they participate in one another. Philosophy can be made more real when it is written with care to the quality of the writing, or when the philosophical ideas are embedded in great stories. I also think literature is more valuable when it is built upon philosophical ideas and ideals. There are times when I enjoy reading philosophy much more than literatue, and there are times when the reverse is true. I love both fields, and find that there is both enjoyment and enlightenment in both. Again, I feel doubly blessed.
I think that the further you go from the text, the more speculative your activity becomes. When I try to see what the plot and character development are, I'm fairly certain of getting consistency between various readers. When I begin to speculate on "lessons" and "morals", the speculation becomes (on a sliding scale) a more important part of the reasoning process than strict analysis. When we begin to posit assumptions about why the writer said what he did, we are speculating again. But I think controlled and responsible speculation is a good. The quality of the speculation will depend on many factors: (1) The reasoning skill of the person doing the analysis. (2) Quality and number of comparisons that can be made to other portions of the same text. (3) Quality and number of comparisons that can be made to other writings by the same author. (4) Biographical data that may impact the story in some way. (4) Interviews or lectures given by the author that may have bearing on the subject of one's analysis. (5) The quality and number of relevant comparisons that can be made with the writings of other authors.
In the realm of textual analysis, there are bound to be multiple perspectives and interpretations. This is just a part of scholarship. I agree with the persons who posted the sentiment that this should be fun. I think analysis of a favorite author or text IS fun. But the point is to try to understand THE AUTHOR'S positions. When we are driven by other purposes, it becomes less fun and more like fighting.
Let's play. Let's not fight. Does this mean we can't disagree? I would suggest that we will frequently disagree. But we can do this without demeaning intent and name-calling. That is all I'm looking for here. There are a lot of bright, opinionated Bradbury fans here. I put ideas out there and some people agree and I feel cool. I put ideas out there and people develop them or rebut them, and I've learned and I think that is cool. It would be a shame for this kind of activity to stop because we can't communicate objectively and respectfully with each other. Let's pool resources and learn and enjoy together.
[This message has been edited by Mr. Dark (edited 05-16-2003).]
Rodney King nearly killed himself and others a few weeks ago, and wound up in the hospital. I was at a Denny's Restaurant in the city of Orange, California, long while back, and just after I left, Rodney King nearly drives his car into the same restaurant. Believe me. I don't think Rodney wants everyone to get along....Maybe get out of the way would be more like it...
[This message has been edited by Nard Kordell (edited 05-16-2003).]
Not sure what Mr. Dark meant by referring to Rodney King as his "patron saint"--hopefully in a joking/sarcastic way. There's been a lot of discussion on the subject on a favorite group of mine. Those who have the patience to look it up in the archives can click on, or type into finder: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/1ADAM-12/
but I'll sum up one comment for you even though this is a lot more relevant to censorship/selective information than to religion. The group includes a lot of Law Enforcement Officers and people related to the field, and one remarked how the first time he saw the video of the Rodney King arrest he said, "Look out, he's going to take those officers down," and the next thing, bang, he knocked three of the four officers to the ground. The beating FOLLOWED this--AFTER the other people in the car had surrendered peacefully--and the tape of King knocking down the police was NEVER SEEN AGAIN. The person posting used this as an example of the "liberal media's manipulation of public opinion." To me this is so 1984--remember that scene, so relevant to events today, when the enemy changed in the middle of the war and the public eradicated all evidence of the previous enemy? The one I feel really sorry for was the guy holding the video camera. All he did was tape a real event he legitimately felt was newsworthy, and it led to a riot resulting in property damage, serious injury, and the deaths of 54 people! How bad must he have felt?
Dandelion understands my motives exactly. I use Rodney King because he is the exact opposite of an intelligent, law-abiding, peace-loving person; yet, when he saw the violence of the LA Riots, even he called for an end to the violence with his wonderful little plea: "Can't we all just get along?".
(As far as the politics of the Rodney King beating; the video clip makes it look like the beating was excessive, (and perhaps it was), but I watched a full play of the entire video narrated by a policeman, and felt the beating, while apparently excessive, was precipitated, not by a bunch of drunken, narrow-minded cops, but by a guy who led them on a high-speed chase exceeding 100 mph, resisted arrest, was high and drunk, attacked the cops, lunged after a cop's gun, and refused to stay down when so ordered after attacking cops. When I watched the video narrated by the cop, he was able to show that they were not just beating a guy who was down, but that he kept getting up after he was told to stay down. When he began to get up, they beat him down again. While the beating looked very savage, he was so stoned, he just wouldn't stay down. If it was racism, why did the other black guy they arrested not get hit a single time? If it was excessive force, why did the other guy who followed orders not get hit a single time?
I'm not justifying the beating, I'm just saying it was not as one-sided and simplistic as the media made it out to be.)
Officer Powell, the one who seemed most out of control in hitting King across the legs, had recently been reprimanded for not using his baton with enough force. Evidently it's not intended to just gently prod people. Whether policy has changed any on that since the incident...you would have to ask people in the above-cited group who are "in the know."
Now, back to Ray . . .
"They Have Not Seen The Stars" (In "A Chapbook...")
In this poem, Ray makes a distinction between man and beast that goes to one of the activities of man that he sees as unique to humans and that he almost always ties to God; and that is this idea of our capability to see and appreciate and experience a sense of awe. The contrast is to beasts. Beasts exist and function in the world, but they are not aware of the beauty and grandeur in the world given to us.
"Has lion, dog, or bird that sweeps the air /
Looked there, oh, look. Looked there, ah God, the stars: /
Oh, look, look there!"
"Our [man] soul admires what they [beasts], oh, they, have never known."
One of the characteristics of man is that he is able to observe in a way that allows him/her to fully appreciate and stand in awe of the stars. For Bradbury, the stars represent our future, our dreams, our visions; and he says repeatedly that they are put there by God. As you read through these poems, you wonder if he sees God as a being who creates, as a being who is simply a part of the universe/cosmos, or if he just uses "God" because it is a convenient symbol that everyone can relate to.
In either case, the poem goes to what I feel to be a religious sensibility -- and that is this capability to feel awe before beauty, and to feel gratitude for the good that exists. Beasts have no such awareness in Bradbury's cosmology (Sorry, PETA).
He acknowledges that animals see, at a functional level, the universe/world around them, but that they are unable to really "see" and appreciate it for it's intrinsic beauty.
"Oh yes, perhaps some birds some nights /
Have felt Orion rise and turned their flights /
And turned southward /
Because star-charts were printed in their sweet genetic dreams -- /
Or so it seems. /
But, see? But really see and know?
And, knowing, want to touch those fires..."
This goes to another aspect of humanity that seems intermixed with religious sensitivities -- the sense of yearning. For religions, this seems to come out in a yearning for completion, or for God, or for home, or for peace, etc. For Bradbury, he speaks of this yearning as being a yearning for space and our future and for adventure. That yearning, again unique to man, is one of the compelling drives of our lives. This yearning, this beauty, is depicted by Bradbury as a gift of God:
"Wake up, God says. Look there. Go fetch. /
The stars. Oh, Lord, much thanks. The stars!"
God's gift allows us to seek the future, to seek the unknown, to seek Him . . .
Because of this yearning, man is able "To fly with dreams instead of ancient wings." The future is not built on past empirical realities -- it is built on dreams and a hunger for the future and for growth.
Another religous idea in this poem is the idea that another of man's unique gifts is to know what we are. The idea of self-awareness is important to Bradbury and comes up a lot in the poems. "Yes, ours? To know now what we are . . ." The question, then, as to who we are is as follows:
"Or us, in fragile flesh, with God's new eyes /
That lift and comprehend and search the skies?"
Again, with Bradbury, just when he begins to look like a humanist, he pulls God (or the symbol/idea of God) into the discussion. As we appear to be God's new eyes, does he mean there is not God and that our seeing is a godlike characteristic, does he mean we are instruments through which God accomplishes his work, does he see us as God's children/creations and he delights in our learning the way a parent does in the learning and experiences of thier child? Or does he just invoke God as a symbol of order or truth or love, etc.?
I also like his three words as to what we can do with these eyes: lift, comprehend and search. The "lifting" seems to look at elevating man above previous conditions. The "comprehending" seems to entail man's capacity to learn and grow and understand -- man's analytic or rational capabilities. And "search" seems to look to the yearning and focus on growth and the future that seems so critical in Bradbury's writing to the nature of man. Without this yearning, we are no more than beasts.
These capabilities allow us to love, to progress and develop, and to find meaning and joy in our existence.
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