As you probably have heard by now, Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and other novels passed away yesterday. (NY TIMES obit)
My friend Chase Roden, sent me the following reflection this morning, which I share here, since a key part of what we are calling Slow Church is vigilance and attentiveness to discerning together what is faithfulness and what is distraction. Thank you, Chase. And R.I.P., Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury died on Tuesday. I loved his books as a kid and never really returned to them after high school, but there’s one scene — from Fahrenheit 451 — that has always stuck with me. The scene quoted below captures as well as anything I’ve ever read what it means to try to follow Christ among the distractions and temptations of a world that’s satisfied just being comfortable.
Once as a child he had sat upon a yellow dune by the sea in the middle of the blue and hot summer day, trying to fill a sieve with sand, because some cruel cousin had said, “Fill this sieve and you’ll get a dime!” And the faster he poured, the faster it sifted through with a hot whispering. His hands were tired, the sand was boiling, the sieve was empty. Seated there in the midst of July, without a sound, he felt the tears move down his cheeks.
Now as the vacuum-underground rushed him through the dead cellars of town, jolting him, he remembered the terrible logic of that sieve, and he looked down and saw that he was carrying the Bible open. There were people in the suction train but he held the book in his hands and the silly thought came to him, if you read fast and read all, maybe some of the sand will stay in the sieve. But he read and the words fell through, and he thought, in a few hours there will be Beatty, and here will be me handing this over, so no phrase must escape me, each line must be memorized. I will myself to do it.
He clenched the book in his fists.
Shut up, thought Montag. Consider the lilies of the field.
They toil not—
Consider the lilies of the field, shut up, shut up.
He tore the book open and flicked the pages and felt of them as if he were blind, he picked at the shape of the individual letters, not blinking.
“Denham’s. Spelled: D-E-N—”
They toil not, neither do they …
A fierce whisper of hot sand through empty sieve.
“Denham’s does it!”
Consider the lilies, the lilies, the lilies …
“Denham’s dental detergent.”
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” It was a plea, a cry so terrible that Montag found himself on his feet, the shocked inhabitants of the loud car staring, moving back from this man with the insane, gorged face, the gibbering, dry mouth, the flapping book in his fist. The people who had been sitting a moment before, tapping their feet to the rhythm of Denham’s Dentifrice, Denham’s Dandy Dental Detergent, Denham’s Dentifrice Dentifrice Dentifrice Dentifrice, one two, one two three, one two, one two three. The people whose mouths had been faintly twitching the words Dentifrice Dentifrice Dentifrice. The train radio vomited upon Montag, in retaliation, a great tonload of music made of tin, copper, silver, chromium, and brass. The people were pounded into submission; they did not run, there was no place to run; the great air train fell down its shaft in the earth.
“Lilies of the field.”
“Lilies, I said!”
The people stared.
Photo by Alan Light. Via Wikimedia Commons.