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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury!

One of my dirtiest personal secrets is: I was a nerd. (Some of you are rolling you’re eyes like, “Was? As in, no longer? Huh.”) I was a total nerd; I was happiest being left alone, with my dog, Dynamite (Come on. I was eight when I named her.), reading. Voraciously, obsessively reading. Reading anything and everything, from Mad Magazine to Hunter S. Thompson to Harriet The Spy to Chekhov. I was the kind of nerdling whom librarians adored, as I systematically read my way through bookshelves.
I’m thinking of this, because I recently read an inspiring essay by Ray Bradbury, on how and why he became the wonderful writer he is today. [The essay can be found in Sean Manning’s Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book, Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2010.]
 Also, Bradbury just celebrated his 91st birthday and he shows no signs of slowing down and I have a total crush on him. (I know, so weird: my thing for younger men is well-known, but I would totally break my own rule for Ray. Call me!)  As a nerd, I went through the usual nerd-infatuation period with Ray Bradbury wherein you devour everything he wrote…and then become slightly depressed, because you’ve just read everything he wrote and you need him to write more great short stories right. Now.
In the essay, Bradbury discusses his childhood in Depression-era Waukegan, Illinois. Crucially, he makes scant mention of the fact that there was no money…because he had 1) books and 2) his Aunt Neva, a costume-designer and general artist, who developed his imagination. She loved him, encouraged him and gave him the life-long gift of a rich imagination: the ability to see the world differently.
I’m thinking about this today because...times are tough, kid. People are watching their lifestyles go “pop!” I have a lot of clients who can’t believe that this is their life. Which is why imagination, and the hope, the inspiration it provides to get through tough times and work for something better, is more important than ever. As Ms. Dickinson said: “Hope is the thing with feathers.” I’m a creativity yenta; I’m here to help you, the client, figure out what it is you want out of life…and then help you create a realistic (if ambitious) plan to achieve that. What I’m not here to do is to tell you to lower your expectations, to tell you: “Well, there’s a reason they call it ‘work',” and imply that happiness is overrated, or that you’re being childish for wanting to live a life of meaning, while paying the bills.Yeah,  f**k that noise; I’ll leave that to the morons politicians making political hay with people’s lives.
Ray Bradbury, at 91 (91! Love. Him!) is still living a rich, vibrant, passionate life due to the lessons he learned as a child in the Depression. Lessons he learned from books and from a woman with the courage to take his dreams seriously. That’s an excellent lesson for all of us to learn… 

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