Ray Bradbury's Future


"... people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapors for dinner."

Ray Bradbury was an American author known for his speculative fiction stories. I read quite a bit of his work in school when I was a child, including Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Those titles never left my brain, as I thought (and still do) they were really cool titles. One of my favorites stories, The Veldt, 1951, is about a technologically advanced house called the "Happylife Home" that takes over the parental duties of George and Lydia as their children become less and less disciplined. The house does everything for the children including tying their shoes, cooking their food and getting them dressed. The home also has the "nursery," which is a virtual reality space in which the children can produce whatever scene they imagine. As the children become more attached to the house and the nursery, the parents feel they no longer belong there or are needed. Wanting to get rid of their parents entirely, the children imagine an African veldt and trick their parents into coming into the space where they are eaten by the lions. 

Very Black Mirror, right? Anyway. 

I recently decided to read Fahrenheit 451, 1953 - perhaps Bradbury's most well-known book. In this dystopian novel, books are illegal and houses are burned if books are found. The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman whose purpose is to burn down houses that contain books. He is married to Mildred, who spends most of her time in her "parlor" -  a room covered in large TV screens with a fictional family that she talks to. She is also entertained for hours by a clown that jumps around on the TV screen. Montag begins to question his purpose and modern society after stealing and reading a book. Towards the end, after a lot of drama and destruction, he is told of an underground network of people committed to preserving literature by spoken word. Unable to connect with Mildred as she is addicted to the illusions of the parlor, he leaves his town in search of the network. He says that he is "going away from all the people who ate shadows for breakfast and steam for lunch and vapors for dinner." 

This immediately struck me as so relevant to our current relationship with technology. Are we living in Ray Bradbury's imagined future? Shadows for breakfast - could this be the news headlines I scroll through in the morning, filling my soul with only negative emotions? Steam for lunch - watching celebrity gossip on YouTube while I'm actually eating my lunch in front of my computer? Vapors for dinner - the endless scrolling on social media, searching for the next hit of dopamine? 

This really inspired me to think twice about what I choose to consume, even if it seems harmless at the time. We can all use some better mental nutrition, and I certainly don't want to become like Mildred. 

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