“Why is it,” he said, one time, at the subway entrance, “I feel I’ve known you so many years?”
“Because I like you,” she said, “and I don’t want anything from you.”
― Ray Bradbury,
I just finished the 1953 classic novel, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury for the first time.
It seems kind of unbelievable that I have never read it before. I loved other futuristic, sci-fi dystopias such as “Brave New World” and “1984,” which are also amazing, but I had never picked up this one.
Needless to say, I devoured it. I started reading yesterday and finished it today. It is a relatively short read compared to some other books. But it was a thrilling, gripping literary gem that takes hold of you from the outset.
The premise is a society in the not-too-distant future where people are glued to their televisions, are overstimulated, live for pleasure alone, and have come to avoid close relationships. All interactions between humans are surfacey and meaningless. It reminded me of the age of social media like Facebook and Instagram. A place where we post our “best” representation of ourselves and like and comment on an unrealistic portrayal to others of who we are, what is going on, and what we are dealing with.
But when is the last time you made a meaningful connection with a friend. Someone who you know who would be there with you if you just found out you had cancer or if your parent or grandparent died or any other host of difficulties that we go through over time.
I loved this quote (above) in the book. It is from Clarisse McClellan, a social outcast who doesn’t follow the rules. She is an “insane” seventeen-year-old who doesn’t go to school anymore because she isn’t a mindless robot. She asks the question, “why” which challenges the norms of society. She cannot keep her questions to herself, which causes those around her to deem her to be “antisocial”:
“I’m antisocial, they say. I don’t mix. It’s so strange. I’m very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn’t it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this.”
Her questions and challenges to the book’s protagonist, Guy Montag, sets him on a course to make discoveries for himself. It starts him down a road of asking why. His character moves from a blind follower to a question asker and finally a revolutionary. This spark is his brief conversations with Clarisse.
Her interactions with Montag are minimal, but it is her friendship and interest in him that changes his course forever:
“But Clarisse’s favorite subject wasn’t herself. It was everyone else, and me. She was the first person in a good many years I’ve really liked. She was the first person I can remember who looked straight at me as if I counted.”
While there are many other themes to explore in this book, I believe this one of connection to others over binging television shows and movies, over scrolling through hundreds of pictures on Instagram, over endlessly swiping past Twitter posts, over fake representations of your fairy-tale life on your Facebook feed, is most pertinent to our current time.
Call a friend. Set a time to grab dinner and a beer. Make an appointment to talk. To really share your struggles, your fears, your disappointments, share your successes too. If you don’t talk to someone about what is really going on, then nothing will change. You will go on the same way, with the same struggles, and if you repress your feelings for too long, they will come out, one way or another.