Of Books And Burning

A while back I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It was one of those books I had always meant to read, but it took me forever to get around to doing so.

Although her presence in the book is but brief, I loved the way that Clarisse McClellan viewed the world. In a society stripped of imagination and wonder, her joy for life filled the pages in which she featured, showing an interest and love for nature rather than technology. The way she smelt old leaves, tasted the rain, left flowers on the porch for the main character, Guy Montag. In a sterile life devoid of books, creative thinking, imagination and poetry, Clarisse stood out.

Is this what sets us apart? The appreciation of art, and of beauty? And how, above all other species, our imagination can envisage something different, something better, and so we keep on striving, never settling for what we have. Living a life of aesthetic vision.

The burning of the books reminded me of course of the nazi book burning rallies, but on a greater, all encompassing scale. As writers, and readers, just what would we do in a world without books? How would we, could we, express ourselves?

From this destructive, censoring burning, my thoughts turned towards another type of burning. In the thinking of the Celts, the act of being inspired, of attaining that spark of inspiration, of connection, was known as the fire in the head.

The former refers to flames that destroy, the latter to flames that create. The way that our inner workings, thoughts and dreams are creatively given form, substance. How they are brought from the darkness into the light. How they are realised in a world that is dependent on sensory affirmations.

Our interior lives, our interior presence, dwarfs our outer expressions. Each of us carries whole worlds within us that barely escape into the light.

In Bradbury’s story, although the world has been expunged of physical books, they still existed within the minds and memories of those drifters, those dreamers in exile, who were keeping them safe in the silent sanctuary of their being until the time comes for them to bring them forth once more to plant in a more receptive, welcoming and fertile ground.

As one of those  characters says towards the end of the novel, they, we, are but the dust jackets of whole created worlds, worlds that turn to the rhythm of words and of metre, that inform and inspire and move us.

Again, I ask that question:

Is it the appreciation of art, and of beauty, that sets us apart?

11 thoughts on “Of Books And Burning

  1. Thanks, nice blog. Sounds like a good book I’d enjoy.

    With regard to your last question, sets us apart from what?

    I think all human civilisations have appreciated art, even if they burned art they didn’t agree with. I’m pretty sure most intelligent non-human life appreciates beauty, and the art of nature, judging from the way they soak up the sun and wind; and even rain and snow at times, such as after drought.

    Cheers Jackdaw.


    • I don’t know. As a species: I have a golden retriever that sits on the back when the sun is out,head held high. He does look like he is ‘taking in the morning’-but I suspect he just likes the sense of warmth upon his face, in a non-emotional way as in how we react. But who knows?
      A while ago (22nd May) I posted about an exhibit I went to see in London https://cityjackdaw.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/london-day-three-neolithic-glimpses/ (sorry I am technically challenged and haven’t worked out yet how to just highlight the word ‘here’ for a link to the post).
      The exhibit was called ‘Ice Age Art:The Arrival Of The Modern Mind’. Made me think that the embracing of art and artistic representation of images helped to further and develop our ancestors in their reasoning and how they perceived and expressed themselves and the world around them.
      As individuals:Does an inclination to appreciate and reproduce beauty, or anything we find inspiring, set us apart from others as creative people? I know people who would not give the aforementioned sunrise a second glance, but I also know others who would attempt to capture it in poetry or song, in art or like you-photography.
      Anyway-thanks for your comment 🙂 I ask the questions, but don’t know the answers!


      • Apologies-I was presuming photography with you, but I will add poetry and any other way you express your inspirations!


      • Thanks Andy. I think it’s better to ask questions when you don’t know the answers… unless you’re teaching.

        This blog partly inspired my new Folding Mirror poem, and I referenced it: http://fmpoetry.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/poem-of-human-and-animal-mind-conservation/

        I’ve been mulling over the question, and I agree with you almost totally, but would say it’s more: makes us different than sets us apart.

        I think we are the most creative species, but others create things too, such as the amazing structures male puffer fishes make to serenade females: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201308100025

        And while some individual humans are creative with words or images, others might be with comedy or construction.

        I think most people could be creative if taught, or had some inspiration; while others discover their creativity after illness or shocks: it’s there in the brain, but not used.

        Hope that adds some creative thought to the discussion. Cheers.


  2. A lovely post! Well thought out. I read Fahrenheit 451 ages ago. Love Ray Bradbury. If you haven’t read THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak, I highly recommend it. It is a young adult novel about Nazi book burning.

    I shudder to think of a world without books, without stories creatively told.


    • The only Bradbury I have read is this one and also Something Wicked This Way Comes. Enjoyed both. Hope you didn’t spill anything with this further nudge.


  3. Pingback: Poem of Human and Animal Mind Conservation | Folding Mirror Poetry

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