I just finished reading Fahrenheit 451 (now there’s a gem of a book if there ever was one). There was a particular quote towards the end which reminded me of this post over at Andra Watkin’s blog, The Accidental Cootchie Mama. It’s about photographer Wynn Bullock’s legacy (the post, not the quote), and then about legacies in general and that desire we all have to leave something of ourselves behind.
Ray Bradbury sums this up so beautifully that I thought I would share this quote with you all. I found it quite moving, not least because it perfectly encapsulates why I write, and why we all do what we do.
‘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.’
And here’s one to save for a rainy day. Yes it’s a riff on the old cliche “live each day as if it were your last”, but it’s so elegantly put that it ceases to be a cliche:
‘ “I hate a Roman called Status Quo!” he said to me. “Stuff your eyes with wonder,” he said, “live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that,” he said, “shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.” ‘
Happy Friday everybody!
PS: On another note, when I think about the fact that Fahrenheit 451 was Bradbury’s first novel (!!!!), it can make me want to crawl into a damp hole in the ground with everything I’ve ever written, and wait for the pages to decompose. The thing that always cheers me up though, is remembering that before said literary masterpiece, Bradbury spent years writing short story after short story, reading obsessively, learning, honing….As he famously said, it is impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row (i.e. if you write one per week), and that was how he honed his craft. I find that incredibly reassuring, and whilst I think Bradbury possessed a spark of literary genius that few people in this world have, and whilst I don’t think for a moment that I’ll ever get up to the ankle of the man, it’s nice to know that even geniuses started with rejection slips and years of beavering away in the dark. Makes me hope that my beavering will lead somewhere (if not to a novel that sits in the literary pantheon, then at least to something good.)