Ray Bradbury’s Inner Child
The final 2012 issue of The New York Times Magazine is devoted to people who have died during the year. The tone of the essays and occasional artwork is signaled in the title: The Lives They Lived. I look forward to reading these celebrations of people’s lives. Some I may have heard of, but not always. This issue became another cover-to-cover reading, because even if the person was not someone I would normally want to learn about, the quality of the writing captures me. Many writers are frequent contributors to The New York Times, and seeing their names after the titles entices me with delights to come.
After finishing the issue, one essay kept resurfacing in my head. The opening quotation is from Maria Popova’s essay about Ray Bradbury. In fewer than 180 words, “The Untortured Artist” delivered a ton of inspiration. The science fiction writer was asked about “which moment of his life he’d return to” if time travel were a possibility. He answered, “Every. Single. Moment.” He continued, “because I’ve remained a boy.”
Bradbury’s happiness is at odds with the popular image of the tortured genius. My brain automatically pressed its list-making button: Vincent van Gogh, Maria Callas, Michelangelo (maybe he was just grouchy and obsessed with making a decent living), Paul Cézanne (ditto), Sylvia Plath, Jackson Pollock. It is difficult to stop with six artists, because biographers keep us nourished with tell-alls, trials and tribulations. Frankly, they seem more compelling than a life filled with few or no bumps, if that can even happen. I learned that Ray Bradbury overcame a major obstacle: poverty.
Too poor to go to college, he went to the library three days a week for ten years! He read. Writers must read. He did. Married with two daughters, Bradbury rented a typewriter for 10 cents a half-hour! “Fahrenheit 451” cost him $9.80 to write. It must have been a challenge to stay in touch with his inner child back then. Somehow, I believe sacrifice became his fuel for joy. I bet he never complained about “writer’s block.”
Today, I will make two copies of Maria Popova’s final paragraph and put them into small frames. One will go next to my computer and the other into my studio: She quotes Bradbury: “You remain invested in your inner child by exploding every day. You don’t worry about the future, you don’t worry about the past - you just explode.” Thank you, Ray Bradbury. These are words to live by. The life you lived keeps on giving.