This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'” – Zechariah 13:9
When manipulated by Man, fire heats, illuminates and cleanses. Perhaps, ultimately, fire is knowledge; something Man can wield to any desired outcome. Man blazes like a torch and an idea gleams like a candle flame. But when Man stokes an inferno, it has no choice but to destroy and from the ashes…
In stifling knowledge and pursuing pleasures, Man experiences a seemingly happy existence.
Unfortunately, a small side-effect may occur. Man may forget how his happiness naturally depends on his affinity towards others.
When on their death beds, it seems that people almost instinctively consider what imprint they leave on the world. But what lasting impression can they leave others when their lives centered on self-indulgence? How will a man be remembered by others when he shared nothing valuable with them?
Bradbury’s futuristic society uniquely chastises the general public, not the government regime, for its own living conditions. For the most part, Fahrenheit 451 alienates the political atmosphere from the consequence of the story. Instead, he describes the public as an immature juvenile unable to cope with its own natural growing pains. To avoid such growing pains, society chose to eliminate the source of all real sorrow and happiness – knowledge. The public differs from a simple toddler only in its ability to create conditions under which tantrums are no longer necessary. Because change and growth violently tear men beyond their level of maturity, a generally uncomfortable experience, society chose to stop growing.
Rather, men transform into the robots they create. They generate relationships with characters on TV walls rather than with each other because they no longer want vulnerability or care or love. Advanced technology isolates people because it leaves no room to discover a person’s “who”. Contact between men may increase but the “who” has disappeared from the equation all together. Technology turns people into robots in need of technicians and the government treats them like programs needing control. And if a person exists alone emotionally, how can one learn to honor and respect any life but his own? No integrity – no responsibility. By denying their primal instinct for companionship, Man destroys his society and turns himself into an island among islands, arrested by isolation – all by flicking on the television to watch fraudulent and instantly gratifying news reels and by popping in the headphones.
But don’t worry…we’re not heading down this path.
Public lust for fillers and distractions have wrought this mess! With shortened attention spans and knowledge microwaves, reality show friends, mass media bombardments at the push of a button and in our pockets, men not only lose their ability to spend the appropriate time developing real and valuable thoughts and pursuing lasting relationships. They lose their sense of needing them at all. In an effort to create more time, we have killed it. With its death also died any desire to work towards honing a relationship or appreciating an idea. I often wonder myself why arts and literature remain important since we create a world where they prove inconsequential. We do this to ourselves.
But fire governs Man like a Phoenix…the ultimate power from which comes destruction and creation. We will rise again.
A brilliantly elemental novel – when we get to where we’re headed, they should burn this one first.