Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quotes: Ray Bradbury

I collect quotes. To see the full collection, check my website. Yesterday, while reading some short stories by Ray Bradbury, I came across two passages that I thought I would share. The first is often partially quoted and it was nice to finally see it in its full context. It, like much of Bradbury's best writing, is almost like poetry:

"What are we? Why, we are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts. Creation turns in its abyss. We have bothered it, dreaming ourselves to shapes. The void is filled with slumbers; ten billion on a billion on a billion bombardments of light and material that know not themselves, that sleep moving and move but finally to make an eye and waken on themselves. Among so much that is flight and ignorance, we are the blind force that gropes like Lazarus from a billion-light-year tomb. We summon ourselves. We say, O Lazarus Life Force, truly come ye forth. So the Universe, a motion of deaths, fumbles to reach across Time to feel its own flesh and know it to be ours. We touch both ways and find each other miraculous because we are One."
-Ray Bradbury, in his short story "G.B.S. - Mark V"

The second quote needs a little explanation. The story is about a race of robots in the distant future, when all life has been exterminated. The second speaker, Ultar, is a robot scientist who has just created a human from the "protoplasm" and is reflecting on the differences between humans and robots:

Kront said, "Why did you do it? Why have you made this thing of flesh and imperfection?"
"Why?" Ultar turned to the box. "Look at him, this creature, this man, so small, so vulnerable. His life is worth something because of his very vulnerability. Out of his fear and terror and uncertainty he once created great art, great music and great literature. Do we? We do not.
"How can a civilization create when it lives forever and nothing is of value? Things only take value from their evanescence, things are only appreciated because they vanish. How beautiful a summer day is that is only one of a kind; you have all seen such days --- one of the few things of beauty that we know, the weather, which changes. We do not change, therefore there is no beauty and no art.
"See him here, in his box, dreaming, about to wake. Little frightened man, on the edge of death, but writing fine books to live long after. I've seen those books in forbidden libraries, full of love and tenderness and terror. And what was his music but a proclamation against the uncertainty of living and the sureness of death and dissolution? What perfect things came from such imperfect creatures. They were sublimely delicate and sublimely wrong, and they waged wars and did many bad things, which we, in our perfectness cannot understand.
"we cannot understand death, really, for it is so rare among us, and has no value. But this man knows death and beauty and for that reason I created him so that some of the beauty and uncertainty would return to the world. Only then could life have any meaning to me, little as I can appreciate it with my limited faculties.
"He had the pleasure of pain, yes, even pain a pleasure, in its own way, for it is feeling and being alive; he lived, and he ate, which we do not do, and knew the goodness of love and raising others like himself and he knew a thing called sleep, and in those sleepings he dreamed, a thing we never do, and here he is now, dreaming fine things we could never know or hope to understand. And you are here, afraid of him and afraid of beauty and meaning and value."
-Ray Bradbury, in his short story "A Blade of Grass"

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