‘Warm with Generous Impulse’: Ray Bradbury, In Memoriam

Russell Kirk on Ray Bradbury, on the occasion of the death of Bradbury.

By James E. Person Jr.

A close friend of Russell Kirk, Ray Bradbury died on June 5, 2012 at age 91 in Los Angeles. He was the author of numerous novels and stories beloved by several generations of readers worldwide, especially The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Bradbury was a friend of the permanent things, a fact that Kirk and many other readers grasped and appreciated. In a short assessment of Bradbury’s significance, Kirk wrote (in part):

“Bradbury has been injudiciously described as the world’s greatest living science-fiction writer. Now he does, indeed, look forward to man’s exploration of the planets, although not to the gloating ‘conquest’ of space. But Bradbury is no more an idolator of science and technology than was C. S. Lewis. H. G. Wells expected man to become godlike through applied science; yet Wells’ interior world was dry, unloving, and egotistical. Bradbury (who never drives . . . and detests most gadgets) thinks it more probable that man may spoil everything, in this planet and in others, by the misapplication of science to avaricious ends—the Baconian and Hobbesian employment of science as power. And Bradbury’s interior world is fertile, illuminated by love for the permanent things, warm with generous impulse.”

Kirk adds,

“If spirits in prison, still we are spirits; if able to besmirch ourselves, still only we men are capable of moral choices. Life and technology are what we make of them, and the failure of man to live in harmony with nature is the failure of moral imagination. That failure is not inevitable. . . .

“In Bradbury’s fables of Mars and of the carnival [in Something Wicked This Way Comes], fantasy has become what it was in the beginning: the enlightening moral imagination, transcending simple rationality. The everyday world is not the real world, for today’s events are merely a film upon the deep well of the past, and they will be swallowed up by the unknowable future. The real world is the world the permanent things, which often are discerned more clearly in the fictional dead cities of Mars or the fictional carousel of Cooger and Dark than in our own little private slice of evanescent experience. And—what is a wondrous thing in itself—the new generation of Americans are not blind to the truth of the fabulists, for Bradbury is their favorite author.”

The works of Ray Bradbury will endure. May he rest in peace, and may his four daughters be comforted and blessed with hope.