I am apprenticed to writers across the world and time. I open their books and sit at their feet, unraveling their tricks of language. I am learning how to philosophize and question from Henry James Thoreau, how to use adjectives and adverbs from Ernest Hemingway, how to use simple metaphors like red balloons to explode minds from Sandra Cisneros. I am apprenticed to Charles Dickens, J.M. Barrie, Sophocles, Emily Dickinson, every master of thought and language is sitting across from me and unwinding their stories into my lap. But no master has influenced me more than Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451.
Before I fell in love with Ray Bradbury, I was determined to quash my roiling emotions. I weep uncontrollably at Les Miserables, at family scuffles, at the trailer for Winnie the Pooh. I hop and sing and rehash all my childhood ballet at the autumn wind crumbling golden oaks. I thought my emotions were my shame.
Then I started watching interviews with Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is an effervescent surge of passion. He hasn’t missed a day of writing since he was twelve years old, and that’s a grand feat at his ripe age of ninety-one. His power is not in his flawless technique or pristine editing as authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, but in his emotions. He is alive. He is electrified, alert to every face. He weeps for strangers and whoops for trees. As I watched this man embrace his feelings and live a glorious life because of it, a life of glittering stories and circuses and strangers and love, I felt liberated. I realized my emotions were my power.
Engraved on the back of my iPad is the phrase “stuff your eyes with wonder”, the beginning of a marvelous thought: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” I want that. I want to be ever unsatisfied with consumerism and the ordinary measure of success. I want to be in love every moment of my life, to pursue dreams that spark me into a fury. I want to stuff my eyes with Aristotle’s philosophy, Euripides’s mad tragedies, the swell of politics at elections. I want to debate Maslow’s pyramid, make mushroom stir-fry, earn fluency in French and Italian and Mandarin Chinese, and unearth a deep understanding of my native English with all its delightful quirks and forgotten attics. I want to stuff my eyes with wonder.
It is after Bradbury’s passion that I pattern my life. He is unashamed of his emotions, so I endeavour to cast off my shame. He is vigilant in his curiosity, so I honor my questions, the silly and the grandiose, I let myself be hungry. I realize, now that I’ve studied Bradbury, that my emotions touch my writing with heart, and they touch my life with love. And that true success can be fueled with nothing less than wonder.