Monday, February 15, 2010

"Fire Balloons" & Agnosticism

I really liked "Fire Balloons" also. I had kind of wanted to write my own sci-fi short story about something like that--a missionary to another planet who is him/herself completely transformed by the inhabitants of the planet. But now I've got to come up w/ something different, b/c there's no topping Ray Bradbury. I was interested by some of the information presented about him by the other xerox as well, how in his later years, he thought he would have made a good minister despite his Agnosticism. I once read a bumper sticker that read "Agnosticism: I don't know and neither do you." While perhaps a little heavy-handed, I thought it had a fair point to make about not having empirical evidence about the truth of one faith over another (or none at all). I think what Bradbury seems to really get at in his short story is the importance of asking questions and being open to truth, no matter how it expresses itself (even as non-humanoid glowing orbs, as he suggests). Perhaps that is the mark of a good minister/priest/sheikh/guru/rabbi/imam/leader of any kind: not being afraid to ask questions, and most of all, not being afraid to be wrong, or at least not right in the way you thought before. That was one thing I thought Bradbury achieved brilliantly through making his alien life forms into orbs. That small detail already put his audience in a frame of mind in which they didn't know how to relate to the aliens at all, since their "bodies" were nothing like human bodies. In Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Weasley tells his daughter Ginny, "Don't trust anything if you can't see where it keeps it's brain." That certainly does not end up being the case in "Fire Balloons," b/c more important than brains, perhaps, they seem to exist as eternal, transcendent souls (wisdom over knowledge, as it were). Again, any of our human knowledge about life forms is challenged by Bradbury's story, and we are as astonished as his two missionary characters by the story's outcome.

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