Friday, June 5, 2015

A Serendipitous Moment

Serendipity - 'The faculty of making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by accident.' According to The American Heritage Dictionary.

As an educator I often describe the concept of a 'serendipitous moment' as walking through a field and suddenly tripping face first into a pile of fresh horse manure. At first, the manure covered faced individual may be upset about this but as that person scrapes away the sticky remains a great big diamond is discovered stuck to the face of the chagrined person. An unexpected discovery turns a moment of embarrassment into one of great joy.

A diamond hiding - really?
June 5th was one such experience J and L experienced while going through some boxes which had been hiding in the rear of John's study closet for years.

While wondering what was lurking in the boxes Laureen asked if I knew that my first interview with Ray Bradbury was in a file within that elusive cardboard box. No knowledge of that long ago transcription had even entered my cranium and then it dawned on me - June 5th of 2015 was the 3rd anniversary of my friend's passing.

Now, I take a great leap of faith declaring the Ray Bradbury as my personal friend but as I posted back in 2012 when he passed from this life and entered the realm of eternity I did believe he was my friend. We wrote correspondence to one another for years after my first interview with him when he had been the guest speaker at the Friends of the Lucerne Valley Library when I shyly went up to him and asked if I could snap some photos and perhaps line up an interview.

Ray Bradbury detailing the joys of writing.
Though I had been published in magazines and newspapers, the concept of actually interviewing a celebrity had not been thought about in my world. I wrote pieces of places I visited or things which should be considered as life altering - like which RV was just perfect for a family of four - but an actual interview? I hadn't done it.

So, as Mr. Bradbury smiled at me in the reception line and answered in the affirmative that he'd love to chit-chat with me. My first interview and it would be one of the most brilliant writers of our time? I tried to be cool and collected but could barely utter the words: "I'll call and make an appointment."

Driving home that evening so many years ago (1990) I wondered what I had to ask the man who had written: The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, The Drummer Boy, episodes of the Twilight Zone, and was good friends with Gene Roddenberry, the brains behind Star Trek. I was a teacher and free-lance writer who sold articles here and there but my name was barely known beyond my dinner table.
Ray Bradbury passionate about libraries
I was to interview Ray Bradbury. Buck up Johnny Boy - no issue there!

A month later I could only arrange a phone interview due to conflicts in schedules - his not mine - but that was enough.

Memory lane for a few lines here if the reader will allow me but the point is to see what a visionary Ray truly was.

J - I want to let you know I'm not a real experienced interviewer but I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to let me have this interview.

R - Surely.

J - I'm taping this if that's okay with you?

R - It's the best way.

J - Ok, what I would like to focus on is your opinion of education in America?

R - Ha! That's the end of that subject. God almighty! Well, I talked to a whole bunch of educators and administrators in Santa Clara about a month ago - 2,000 of them and I ripped their skins off. I said, you know, you're getting a billion dollars a day; that's more than enough to pay for everyone's education but you're not spending it right. It's got to be spent on kindergarten, first grade and second grade.

J - So, you believe the focus is the lower grade levels then.

R - If you don't learn to read what good is a science course in the seventh grade?

A few more questions later -

J - How do you think school districts can become more effective?

R - By teaching reading.

I will not go through the whole interview since it is currently being worked up as a different media concpet which will be produced at a later time but the words spoken by one of the greats twenty-five years ago still rings as solid now as it did then.

Being an educator I know that reading is the most important tool in anyone's life and it is saddening and sometimes maddening when I hear students, as well as adults, tell me that reading is boring while all the time they are Facebooking or texting about things which matter nothing but for the moment. Where reading can take a person to any time period in any world and literally taste things they may never truly experience in their lifetimes.

Pretty Smart guy - this Albert Einstein!

 'A well read and educated public is truly the only thing a tyrant fears,' J. Beyer 2015.

As the interview continued Ray said something that sticks to me to this day - "There's only one crisis - reading. And unless you solve that, our whole civilization goes down the drain. How can you think politically later in life if you can't read?"

Well said - Maestro.

Summer is upon us so let's all get to the store or online and order some books. Read for enjoyment or for education but as Ray would say - 'For God's sake - just read!"

A serendipitous moment for sure this day on the 3rd anniversary of my friend's passing.

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