In my estimation, reading good literature is a part of becoming “one,” a more whole person. I find that in books I can meet people I might never encounter in the real world. I can get inside their heads and figure out what makes them “tick.” I can empathize with situations I’ve never had to go through. It’s truly a profound experience, and the reason I was an English major in college.
But… finding hours to sit on the couch and “do nothing” (though reading hardly counts as nothing!) is not a luxury I feel I can afford most days what with all that’s involved in moving, setting up and maintaining a house, looking for paying work, and being involved in ministry.
My solution? Audiobooks!
Audiobooks are my latest obsession. I have been devouring them lately. I go through at least a book a week, often more. Mostly I listen to them when I’m alone–while I’m driving or working around the house. But I started listening to one recently that was so intriguing that I wanted Jared to listen to it with me. So we did! The book, you may ask?
(Don’t ask me how I missed this one in high school!)
I was almost 2 hours into this 4-hour novel when I decided Jared should join in. I gave him a brief summary of the premise, and he quickly saw the appeal. So we started back at the beginning and proceeded together. (Just because of the irony, here‘s a link to the Wikipedia article and summary of the book.)
We were both captivated by the idea of a society that has deteriorated because of people’s disdain for quiet and peace and their desire to constantly be entertained and placated. Sound similar to the world we live in? I certainly was convicted by the fact that I’m so attached to my iPhone and love to have the TV on in the background when I’m doing stuff around the house. I definitely need to create more space and quiet in my life, whether to reflect, process, or simply be with God. (More on this in future blog posts!)
But what most struck me was the simplicity of the novel. In earnest, I wanted more. About a third of the way into the book, when Montague and Faber “joke” about planting books in firemen’s houses all over the country to bring the whole system down, I wanted to see this happen! I wanted to see a large-scale upheaval of the system they were a part of, resulting in massive changes to the whole society.
For those of you who have read Fahrenheit 451, you know this isn’t where the book goes. And for those of you who haven’t read it, I won’t ruin it. But I was most interested by my own reaction to the book. I wanted conspiracy; I wanted mutiny toward a broken system; I wanted action.
But all of these desires in me came about from consuming today’s media. Movies today have to be bigger, flashier, and louder. You literally get “more bang for your buck.” But often times the content is missing. Rarely do these same movies have profound things to say about our world.
Don’t get me wrong: I love action movies–sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for what might jump out at me next. But that’s not reality. Too often we live in a broken society and the solution isn’t that simple. Two people can’t plot to overthrow “the system” and succeed. If Bradbury had gone there, honestly he would have been taking the flashy, but easy, way out.
So What Can I Do?
All I can do is what Guy Montague is stuck with at the end of the book. He’s left with a fragments of two books in his head and a hope that that knowledge will come in handy when the world needs it. All I can do is persevere. I can hope to make my corner of the world a little more like the new heaven and new earth will be. I can try to stand against the system, while realizing that I can’t overthrow it by myself.
And probably most importantly, I can rely on God to make me ONE–one with God, one with my husband, and one with the way God intended the world to be. Our world has gotten pretty far off track, but I hope to faithfully soak in God’s word and wade through the mess to live a more faith-filled and obedient life.
There’s No Easy Way Out
We all want quick, easy solutions to systemic problems, and that’s what makes so much of today’s entertainment so satisfying. But we are stuck in the real world. We are stuck with the problems of expensive health care, a minimum wage that’s below the poverty line, predatory lending practices, perverted media, and so much more. And there’s no easy way out.
However, if we are willing to walk with God, he will show us what it means to be faithful in the midst of this chaos. Even if it never changes. Crises will happen–personally, nationally, and globally. WE must be willing to stand strong and hold fast to God.
Although it seems that Ray Bradbury wasn’t a Christian, he lived in the reality that there is no easy way out. Let’s embrace the reality of our broken world AND the fact that solutions are complicated. Wishing things were other than they are isn’t going to help. After all, isn’t escaping into a world of fantasy exactly what Bradbury is warning us against?