Sunday, November 25, 2007

Food for thought

Someone recently shared with me one of those stop-and-make-you-think quotes from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. I've read it before (am about due for a re-read, actually), but if you haven't yet, it's a great book; most people are probably familiar with its anti-censorship theme, though Bradbury himself recently said it was actually about the dangers posed to reading by too much television watching. Either interpretation yields a rich, relevant message, and I look forward to re-reading the book with a new interpretive lens. Bradbury is a brilliant writer with brilliant ideas, including this one:
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.
I read the quote once, was ready to pass it over, and stopped to process. I wonder, really, what I've touched and left an impression on--it's not the sort of thing we tend to think about in the rush, rush, rush of the daily grind. I teach, true, and I make some hand-crafted things; perhaps it's self-deprecation, but I don't think I've left my mark. Yet. And I wonder what that mark, that touch, will be, and on whom, and when. I like his word choice--touch--to reach out, to connect, to make meaningful contact, physical or otherwise, with another human being. It seems to be increasingly missing in our daily interactions. But I digress...

What about you? Who or what have you touched? What will you leave behind?

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