It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it

I’m reading the most fantastic book. The surprising thing is, I may have read it before, and there’s a good chance you’ve read it too. It’s called…



I was looking for a new YA book as usual, so I started googling “top YA books,” or some such thing and this one always came out near the top. I thought I had read it as required reading in high school, but in reading it now I can’t say I remember much, if any of it, which makes me think I never read it in the first place. Let’s let me believe that.

Reading it now has brought me many “aha” moments, which should be the goal of any truly great book. In case you’re one of the few who haven’t read it, I’ll give you a teensy plot teaser. It’s the dystopian (pessimistic futuristic…) story of a fireman whose job it is to set fires rather than put them out. And the fires burn books. In this future, people have figured out that it’s rather painful to think, and so ever so slowly, society has weaned itself of thoughts that may lead to conflict or challenge, which is why books are seen as rather problematic. The main character, Guy Montag, is happily running around torching books when he meets a teen girl who thinks and speaks differently. Poetically. With questions. The light goes on for Guy, and it looks like he has some thinking to do.

I admire insightful writers, enough that I’m almost giddy when I find one. This book was first published in 1951, but Ray Bradbury describes the future I live every day. How  there are no porches, because people don’t talk anymore (okay, so there are still porches, but they don’t get used a whole lot). How TV is absorbing everyone, but it’s not saying anything. How when people aren’t watching TV they have “seashells,” in their ears, spouting noise that takes them away from interacting. How many people are almost entirely absorbed with nothings.

Do you ever go to a party, and all the chit chat is about stuff? Things someone has bought, or things someone wants. TV shows. I remember I had one friend who used to describe interactions he’d had with customer service people in great detail. Of course I’m far from innocent – everyone gets distracted with the little things for much of every day and wants to chat about it. But whenever I finish a day engrossed in interactions like this, I feel like there’s something missing. I wonder what’s wrong with me. And then I call a close friend who doesn’t talk like that, and I’m reminded not to despair. This book also reminded me that I’m not the one with the problem.

Please. Care about something. Challenge people, and don’t be shy to ask embarrassing questions so that you can challenge from a place of understanding. Search for meaning, and don’t be lazy about your minutes and seconds on this planet. Our time is short, and we need to make the most of it.  Work tirelessly to prevent dystopia.

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