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Different Worlds

By Carl S ~

Ray Bradbury's novel, “Fahrenheit 451” is famous for it's message of resistance to a government's suppression of free speech through the burning of books. His society has accepted this suppression as “normal.” Beneath the story of the fireman book-burner who becomes the book-preserver, lies another: his resignation to the “normal” relationship with his wife. During the course of his experiences, we come to see how each of them lives in differing worlds. The world is dramatically changing before him, while his wife's remains the same, every day.

Perhaps the author is commenting on spousal relationships in general. Normally, marriage relationships might begin in passionate “cannot live without/we're soul-mates “ confessions, but eventually, each spouse wants his and her own personal space, interests, hobbies, activities, etc. They remain emotionally attached, committed, and physically involved enough to feel secure and comfortable together. You might say this pattern is “traditional.” (One man wrote about reading while his wife watched tv, thinking how his father read the newspaper while his mother crocheted and listened to the radio. Before then, did the husband whittle or carve while his wife knitted or made jams?) As I sit here writing, the laptop on my lap, she's watching a program of interviews with members of yet one more dysfunctional family, who will exit the audience most likely unchanged by unloading their problems.

The theme of “relationships together but not,” is taken to the extreme in Bradbury's tale. The hero's wife is emotionally involved with her television “family,” which consists of a few people sitting around in discussions not revealed to us. She is literally surrounded with them, since her television is a total environment, covering all four walls of her room, totally uninvolved in any other world, especially his.

Some realists are lovingly married to Christian spouses, so they have inkling where I'm going with this. (If you are not a religious person, you might also empathize with another husband, the spouse of a woman involved with her son's evangelical preaching fervor, in Joyce Carol Oates novel, “Son of the Morning.” ) Don't we sometimes feel our spouses are living in a world not of a TV “family” but a church “family” separate from reality? Do these “families” they belong to deeply believe superstitions are necessary for human survival, just as willingly sacrificing children to the gods once was? Do they fear to let go of their superstitions for that reason? It might be something you need to discuss with others, if this is their belief and our predicament.

Sometimes our social relationships are more galactic than organic. We are in our own orbits, coming together to share the best and worst of times, which happen to be the ones we remember most strongly. But those “soul” or “spiritual” connections are transitory and subject to re-thinking. We return to those comfortable orbits again. Like little children, we take the opportunity to jump on the lap for our hugging and loving, but jump off quickly - we've had enough to last us until the next time.

At times, it looks like we're living in a multiple personality disorder society, each racial, ethical, cultural, and status-conscious strata contrasted with the other. As in marriages, compromise is the proven method to keep things from colliding in disorder. In any democracy, shared, factual, and verified information should lead to more tolerance and compromise in order for our social organism to survive. Ideological political-religious movements keep getting in the way. It is a curse inborn to all religions: they are ever discontent to stay in their own orbits, which are inherently unstable and founded on the shifting sand of invented traditions. Refusing to look inward, they force themselves outward. How do you communicate with and get past the fears of those who live in another world?