My younger brother introduced me to a collection of Ray Bradbury’s short stories back in the ‘60s and I became an instant fan. When I taught junior high English classes, of course I found Bradbury’s short stories in most anthologies. “There Will Come Soft Rains” about nature restoring cities where the people have been destroyed, presumably by nuclear warfare, was a special favorite.
I loved teaching ninth graders Bradbury’s dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451. It made its way onto the district’s approved list before the current fundamentalist trend sent the morality police checking books for blasphemous terms like, “Oh God!” Unlike the tacky YA novels currently approved by parent committees, Fahrenheit encouraged my students to think.
Ray Bradbury died June 5 at age 91. The PBS NewsHour showed clips of interviews with Bradbury. I enjoyed the interview from the ‘70s when Bradbury was a robust, middle-aged man. The recent interview, with Bradbury’s face and neck bloated from the effects of an age-impaired body, troubled me. His altered appearance reminded me that my own once firm body is losing the battle with gravity. Why would he let himself be filmed when he looked so bad?
Listening to Bradbury’s interview, I realized that although his body was impaired, his brain was not. He answered each question thoughtfully, giving insight into how and why he wrote. My more mushy brain had been focused on Bradbury’s puffy body rather than on the beauty of his spirit weathered by years of experience and wisdom.
I realized that what Bradbury had left—a brilliant mind and wisdom from a long lifetime of experiences—far outweighed a body surrendering to time’s ravages.
The human body does not age to perfection, but the human spirit can.