"And it was published in 1953!" I said, with admiration for Bradbury's foresight.
Father shrugged and smiled, shook his head and acted not a bit surprised. He said (I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like), "People will always look for the easiest way."
He's right, of course.
It's not surprising that Bradbury could look at the world around him and figure out where it might be headed. It's always been true that one could examine just about any current trend (i.e., in the 1950s -- music, TV, mass market entertainment) and spin it out to the extreme. With just a little knowledge of mankind and our fallen nature, one can assert with a fair amount of confidence the paths we will undoubtedly take. Bradbury didn't have to look very far to see people who didn't understand why poetry made them cry, who thought that children were "ruinous" and that politicians should be elected based on good looks and height. He didn't have to stretch the imagination too far to predict relentless escapism consuming a culture.
Nothing much has changed since the fall of Adam and Eve.
Our first parents had it all, didn't they? Still, they wanted things to be easier. They wanted to make the rules, define the world, create their own reality show. And they left us their legacy, left us seeking, always, what's easiest.
And, what is faith?
Faith is an ongoing reaction against what is easy.
Our justification is initiated by God and His grace, of course. Our salvation is impossible without Him. But,
Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom ... When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight. ~~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, (para. 1993-94)We can't be saved by our own actions and free will, but God, having touched us with His grace, does then ask us to employ our free will in His service.
He loves us enough to give us the freedom to reject Him each and every day.
And rejecting a life of faith is easy, really. It's easy to follow trends, dig our heels into the world, avoid the pain of poetry and daily seek new ways to forget and escape.
Accepting a life of faith is hard. There is truth; there are rules. The humility of admitting that one doesn't have all the answers. There's obedience, sometimes to things with which one might disagree. There is suffering, and the knowledge that God works through pain for our good.
But, having lived a life without faith, and a life with it, I can say that what at first seemed easy -- making my own truth, my own rules, and avoiding the "bonds" of religion -- turned out to be a much harder (and unhappier) way to live. And the freedom that has come with obedience to my faith has been more freeing than anything I tried to create on my own.
Near the end of Fahrenheit 451, a man named Granger explains to Montag, the former fireman, what a phoenix is, and about the mythological creature dying and rising again. Civilization, the men know, has destroyed itself; the life that awaits this small band of people will not be an easy one. But, in another way, it will not be nearly as hard as the life they were living.
I think a life of faith is like that.
Like Granger's phoenix, we arise from the ashes of each day, to begin again to do what is hard. And what is easy.