I daresay that most of us paused on Tuesday when the news spread across the Internet that the icon of science fiction authors, Ray Bradbury had passed away. I know my heart paused with the weight of the news.
Who doesn't remember reading one of his books in school? The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man... Did you know he wrote over 500 titles? I remember reading, and re-reading his stories--losing myself in his worlds and pondering his questions.
I'll never forget The Veldt, *shudder*. *There Will Come Soft Rains* has stuck with me for thirty years--the social commentary is astounding and I still recall the empty and total loss I felt the first time I read it. No! It couldn't happen, could it?
I could go on and on about how this one author changed my world view--and that of many, many other people, but I will leave you with this one selection.
When I was a boy my grandfather died, and he was a sculptor. He was also a very kind man who had a lot of love to give the world, and he helped clean up the slum in our town; and he made toys for us and he did a million things in his lifetime; he was always busy with his hands. And when he died, I suddenly realized I wasn’t crying for him at all, but for the things he did. I cried because he would never do them again, he would never carve another piece of wood or help us raise doves and pigeons in the backyard or play the violin the way he did, or tell us jokes the way he did. He was part of us and when he died, all the actions stopped dead and there was no one to do them the way he did. He was individual. He was an important man. I’ve never gotten over his death. Often I think what wonderful carvings never came to birth because he died. How many jokes are missing from the world, and how many homing pigeons untouched by his hands? He shaped the world. He did things to the world. The world was bankrupted of ten million fine actions the night he passed on.
Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.
RIP, Mr. Bradbury, and thank you for touching so many...