Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Immortal Gardener

Double post!

While reading Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead last week, which in many ways deals with the question of what makes one immortal, I was reminded of a passage I read once, about how a gardener remains immortal, but someone who only mows his/her lawn isn't. I stretched my mind trying to remember where I had read it, and it finally dawned on me that it was in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. The book-lover's book of books. I located my old copy on the shelf, scanned the marginalia and excessive underlining, and voila! Here's the quote:

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.

Ray Bradbury <3

So here are some more poignant passages from one of my all-time favorite books:
The sun burnt every day. It burnt time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis and time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he burnt things with the firemen and the sun burnt Time, that meant that everything burnt!
One of them had to stop burning. The sun wouldn't certainly. ... Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people's heads, any way at all so long as it was safe..."

...don't look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.

It's not books you need, it some of the things that once were in books. The save thing could be in the 'parlor families' today. The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it's not books at all you're looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself.

The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores in the face of life. The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless. We are living in a time where flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.

Montag looked at the river. We'll go on the river. He looked at the old railroad tracks. Or we'll go that way. Or we'll walk on the highways now, and we'll have time to put things into ourselves. And someday, after it sits in us a long time it'll come out our hands and our mouths. And a lot of it will be wrong, but just enough will be right. We'll just start walking today and see the world and the way it really looks. I want to see everything now. And while none of it will be me when it goes in, after a while it'll all gather together inside and it'll be me. Look at the world out there, my God, my God, look at it out there, outside me, out there beyond my face, and the only way to really touch it is to put it where it's finally me, where it's in the blood, where it pumps around a thousand times ten thousand a day.

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