14 June 2010
Day 79: Fahrenheit 451
Holy butts! Why haven't I read this before?! This is possibly the most important book that was ever written. This needs to be required reading in every civics class in America and several other countries.
It also made me realize something. I would be willing to die for a book. Maybe not just any book, maybe not any copy, but I would be willing to die for the last copy of the Bible, the Koran, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, even Mein Kampf.
I don't have to support the words in every single book to want to save it. These are all important works, and there are many other works that are important regardless of their content. They need to exist so that people can read them, analyze them, and form their own opinions. It is necessary for these historical texts to exist, regardless of whether or not we want them to. The truth is that they existed in the past and formed and shaped current events. It may be a dark part of our past, but we should own that and accept it for what it is: A mistake, a terrible mistake, and one we'll hopefully learn from. But we can't learn from it if we don't know how and why it happened. If we don't have the resources, we can't possibly understand the ideas and concepts that led to later attitudes and events.
Our lives are so paltry and fleeting compared to the ideas captured in stories, philosophy, non-fiction, etc. Why wouldn't I consider giving up my life to save something so much more significant than I am? I might prefer to give up a year of life for a chapter, and I would like to choose the work, but if I had to dedicate my life to saving one book I would do it. Whether it meant memorizing it and carrying it around until it could be written again, or if it meant sacrificing my actual life, the words and the ideas are more important than one individual, because they can affect a larger number of lives than my life can.
I hope that we don't, and will never, live in a society where I have to carry out this sentiment. I hope we are past book burning of any variety (that includes banning). I know that books are challenged everyday, particularly in schools, but that is all the more reason to provide access to them in other ways. Allowing our children to experience the world through someone else's eyes can only be good for them. Otherwise, how do we expect them to be well-rounded and understanding people? Books give us an opportunity to see life from someone else's perspective. Yes, it's dangerous. They may not take the things we want them to take from literature, but it's a freedom that must be kept for everyone, regardless of its consequences.