Tuesday, September 04, 2012


Ray Bradbury left us earlier this summer, but his stories will never leave, they'll echo on, seeded for decades to come. Some tales will set succesive generations trembling, some will leave them curious and wondering. A select few, very special examples, could cause serious re-thinks of previous attitudes.

Two of Ray Bradbury's stories, later adapted to short TV dramas watched recently, reminded me of something that self-help guides, philosophers and the like have often dictated, but without the same impact: that attitude is everything. The two stories in question paint pictures, far more effective than mere paragraphs of instructions.

First story The Toynbee Convector:
The inventor and time traveller at centre of the tale comes from a time of imminent environmental collapse - and an economically and creatively stagnant late 20th century society. In his time machine, The Toynbee Convector, he travels forward one hundred years. On returning to the 20th century he shows evidence in films and other records of his trip. One hundred years hence man had managed to develop a beautiful world - better life style, and a restored natural environment.

Initially, the people, unable to disprove validity of the records brought from the future, are inspired by the prospect and begin projects likely to fulfill the vision and create the world the time traveller has seen.

A hundred years later, that more perfect world has come to pass. On a day the public has been told to expect to see the young time traveller arrive to meet his aged self, the time traveller recounts his story to a reporter, during the first interview he has ever granted. He reveals what really happened many years ago: "I lied."

Suspecting that the world's people had it in them to create a better world, he brought them the illusion of one, to give humanity a goal, and a hope. The imagined future became reality. After his admission, the time traveller dies, but leaves with the reporter proof of what he has told him, expecting the reporter would tell people the truth. They would understand that they had actually saved themselves. But the reporter decides to maintain the illusion, destroys the evidence the time traveller left for him to reveal.

Second story, The Day it Rained Forever, tells of three men who have been living in an old hotel in an Arizona desert ghost town for more than 20 years. Oppressive heat, dust and constant drought is the norm, rain comes at most once a year, and is eagerly awaited as the story opens. This particular year has been exceptionally hot. The men bemoan their fate constantly; one of them retires to his bed and intends to remain there, without sustenance until he dies. Towards evening, with no prospect of rain appearing on this day when it was historically expected, a car approaches. The woman driver, a lady no longer young stops her vehicle, and in the process damages the already aged and battered car, which is carrying a covered oddly-shaped object on the roof rack.

The woman introduces herself and chats to the two men. They invite her into the hotel for a meal. They seem to immediately start feeling better, spruce themselves up a bit, and over dinner she tells them she is a musician. She waxes lyrical about her love of music. The object atop her car is a harp. They bring it into the hotel and she plays - a beautiful melody. As she plays she seems to become younger, more beautiful. The attitude of the two men changes from depressed to uplifted. The woman goes to the third man, who hopes to die, and offers him soup. He refuses. Later it starts to rain heavily. It's as though the changed attitudes of the two men had caused the helpful and much wished-for change in the weather.

These two tales, were placed one after the other, on a DVD, part of a set we have: The Ray Bradbury Theater. It took a moment, but I realised that their message was one and the same: a change in attitude can change many things.

Mr Bradbury was something of a philosopher, just like another story-teller, Aesop long before him, was he not?

PS: for more about Ray Bradbury, and his natal chart, see my post from 2009.

PPS: Heading of current post was (kind of) suggested by yet another of Mr Bradbury's titles Colonel Stonesteel and the "Desperate Empties":

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