Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Summer Reading: The Martian Chronicles

Wow, here we are into August already.  I won't do an eternal summer catch-up (I'll probably save that for the big summer clump at the end) but if I were to describe this summer I'd say it's been a fairly lazy one, lightning fast, with a few fun things thrown in.  If travel is in question my answer is always YES A THOUSAND TIMES but we haven't done much this summer. A couple of camp trips and a week in CA. But it's ok. Mostly.  I do love the chilled-out vibe.  Julian's taken a tennis class, an art class, and a lego class which he loved more than anything on this green earth (the lego one) and clocked in approximately 80,000 hours of lego time. Can't argue with that.  We eat out on the grass when we can, go on early scooter adventures before it gets too hot, I've started up "movie afternoons with Jen and Julian" where we watch weird things like an old Beethoven biopic and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It's pretty great.

It's also, as mentioned, been the summer of Ray Bradbury.  The next book I read after Fahrenheit was The Martian Chronicles.  These are short stories that sometimes play off each other-- keeping some of the same components but on the whole, tell a separate story-- about what it would be like if people lived on Mars.  In the very first story, humans land on Mars and it's amazing! Miraculous! Man's greatest achievement! The big moment! They meet Martians who basically live in a very similar way as humans, in communities and homes, with similar relationships and mundanity. (note to self: use mundanity more)  But the martians they meet are not impressed whatsoever. It's the first time humans have landed on their planet and they are bored and the human astronauts just do not get it.  One martian tells them to go talk to another who passes them onto another, like paperwork at the office nobody wants to do.  They eventually are interviewed by someone who seems somewhat interested in what they have to say, who then puts them into a room/facility(?) with other people where the humans eventually realize it's an insane asylum.  The Martians live in a reality where if something doesn't make sense, it must not be real, and if it's not real, they must not be real, and they end up shooting themselves because why not? if they're not real? It's extremely disturbing but sets a marvelous tone for what you would NEVER expect a "humans land on Mars" book to be.  Like, ohhh. That's how it is. The feeling you get when you discover something new and assume it's within a certain context of a reality you understand but then realize that is absolutely FALSE and you are a million miles away from where you thought you were and you're left floundering, grappling as to even know where to begin. You know, when that happens.  I love it.

Other stories take place in the context of Martian civilizations long been killed off or made extinct for some reason or another. Towns are empty. Humans live there for hundreds of years, but then there's this big war on Earth that requires all the humans home so only two are left.  And what would that be like? A deserted, post-apocalyptic or at least post-inhabitated Mars is not a premise I would ever consider. But Ray does, oh yes he does. 

One of my very favorites though was about two priests instructed to bring religion to the Martians who aren't necessarily corporeal, whose means of communication are a total mystery. The humans have no idea how to introduce such a concept to them so they're given all kinds of instructions but also questions to consider:  How do you teach about sin? Adam and Eve? Does that apply to a different planet? What is "sin" to them? Is it the same? Does this concept exist? How would one be held accountable? Do religious laws on Earth apply to Mars? Not to mention within Catholicism.  It's good stuff.  One of the priests, Father Peregrine, seems a bit more lax and hopeful about things while the other, Father Stone, is much more rigid and afraid and stressed. An excerpt delighted me and resounded with me and the way I view God:

At nightfall Father Peregrin and Father Stone were high in the hills.  They stopped and sat upon a rock to enjoy a moment of relaxation and waiting.  The Martians had not as yet appeared, and they both felt vaguely disappointed.

"I wonder--" Father Peregrine mopped his face.  "Do you think if we called 'Hello!' they might answer?"

"Father Peregrine, won't you ever be serious?"

"Not until the good Lord is.  Oh, don't look so terribly shocked, please.  The Lord is not serious.  In fact, it is a little hard to know just what else He is except loving.  And love has to do with humor, doesn't it? For you cannot love someone unless you put up with him, can you?  And you cannot put up with someone constantly unless you can laugh at him.  Isn't that true? And certainly we are ridiculous little animals wallowing in the fudge bowl, and God must love us all the more because we appeal to his humor." 

Isn't that great? Isn't that a fantastic way to view God? Someone who isn't laughing at us, but laughing with us, He swears! Just as you'd say to a little child who is making you laugh with all her struggling and frustrations. You adore them, you want to help them, but you can't help but laugh a little.

I love space/other worlds stuff and I love philosophy and if you do too, read this book today. Also, either I chose the books by coincidence or Ray Bradbury loves to talk about summer in everything he writes, which was exactly what I wanted to do this summer: Read about it.  His descriptions have been transportive.  Thanks, Ray.

So anyway, hey, August.


Joel said...

I've always meant to read some Bradbury but have never gotten around to it. Yet.

)en said...

If you do, let me know. I think I could do a book club of him alone.
Also-Joel, I’ve commented on several of your blog posts but I’m afraid they got lost in oblivion. ?? Hopefully not bc there was some good stuff there.

Joel said...

Ah! I went in and saw a bunch of comments that needed to be published. That's odd, because I usually get email notifications, but for some reason that's not working. Anyway, fear not—your thoughts were not lost. Just delayed.