The opening speaker of the 'Cosmic Evolution'
lecture series, Ray Bradbury, on July 10, 1972.
Ray Bradbury spoke at first almost self consciously within the context of this science lecture series, beginning by emphasizing his space related experiences. Here we have Ray Bradbury celebrating the epic voyages to the Moon which were still in progress at that time. His facing down of cynics the night of the first Moon landing is relayed with freshness and passion. He repeatedly draws aside the more contemporary issues to return us to a vision of Humanity's destiny in the Universe. He wrote stories of people seeing things dear and sacred as different personal visions when encountering advanced telepathic beings, and such a story is relayed here. The talk concludes with a poem anticipating a triumph that looks farther away now than ever. For readers who saw Ray Bradbury, they will recall him through his spoken words with the added benefit of their memories. For you who knew him only by his writings, or not at all, read on and be shown an hours worth of a great storytellers passions and interests. The next time you see a book of his pick it up and see if it carries you into a wonderland millions have shared.
A few notes about this recording and transcription. I borrowed a good microphone and portable cassette tape recorder and took them to the Palace of Fine Arts auditorium, sitting fairly high up in the seating rows. The tape, selected for perceived higher quality, made it through the decades and was copied onto a CD several years ago. NASA videotaped the conference, and if that still exists it would be a worthy thing to have. Alas, I have no way of knowing if my recording is the only one of this speech in existence. My recording is listenable but not terribly good. The talk has been transcribed word per word as accurately as possible. Most 'Uhs', and the like, including words repeated while composing sentences on the fly, are omitted or buried within the ellipsis marks, ... which mostly indicate a dramatic pause. Some sentences are followed by a syllabic 'Eh?' and the like which have been included as characteristic of Ray Bradbury's speaking, which one who has seen him would recall. Occasional loud emphasis of words is indicated by capitalizing the entire word or syllable so spoken. A name or two is written phonetically and may be only a rough approximation.
A few unclear words are indicated within brackets. [ ].
Brief notes on audience reactions are contained within parentheses ( ).
Since the talk is episodic, I have taken the liberty of inserting capitalized 'chapter headings' at the start of sections dominated by a distinct topic. They were of course not shouted words in the original spoken presentation, but are added here to break up a long text document into more readable sections.
-INTRODUCTION AND OPENING REMARKS
NASA Ames employee(?) Ed Duckworth introduced the inaugural lecture of the 'Cosmic Evolution' series in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and apologized for not anticipating the huge crowd that would show up for the first speaker, Ray Bradbury. He then said, in part:
"Let me welcome those who are here to our lecture series 'Cosmic Evolution: Man's Descent From The Stars'. The co-sponsoring organizations: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Ames Research Center, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the City College of San Francisco, are pleased to present this program to you free of charge." The Upcoming lectures were then generally described, including the fact that these early lectures in the series were being videotaped.
"Now, in the following lectures in this series, we'll try to get you from the start, the beginning of the Universe, up through the present, and off into the future. It tells you the story of Cosmic Evolution, now, we'll be reviewing for you the content of the Universe, and the evolution of its various parts...galaxies, stars, planets, life, and men. We are...telling a story in this series then, and it's a story which is going to take you across a story of space and time...and, I think, an adventure in mind and spirit as well. it's only in the last few years, out of the last five billion since our most immediate origins in cosmic history, that we have had a grasp of the essence on this...grand scheme of Cosmic Evolution...and that's why this series has been organized, to report this...scientific...version of history, as we now see it. To be sure, a great many of the details of the story are missing, but the outline is, most would agree, firmly in hand, and it is something that we can speak about...with some confidence as well as in some cases some detail.
Now, since we are telling a story in this series I think that there is no better way for us to begin than with a great storyteller. Ray Bradbury is our, as you all know, our first speaker, He's written many many short stories, he has written many famous books which I'm sure many of you have read, Fahrenheit 451,The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, he worked on the screenplay of John Houston's 'Moby Dick'. Ray Bradbury is, in a sense, different from the scientists that you will see coming up in the series, not different in his desire to communicate his wonder at the sense of the...evolution of the Universe to you in clear terms, but he's different in his background. From High School he is a self educated man, he never went to college a day in his life as I understand it. But he does currently spend his time lecturing at virtually all colleges and universities in the Los Angeles area each year as a visiting instructor. Now tonight, Mr Bradbury's topic is going to range through the...sciences coming up in the series, and try to give you an overview, as well as to stress to you some of the esthetic response to some of the lectures to come. I hope you'll join with me now in welcoming Ray Bradbury."
(Extended standing ovation)... Ray Bradbury walks on stage,
takes the mike, waiting for the clapping to subside. He then says:
"I don't believe this. (laughter)..It's great...Man...Where do I start...Where do I start...I'm the front Man for a bunch of fantastic scientists that are coming here in the next few weeks. I feel so...obligated to try to give my own ideas about space, which I've certainly thought about since I was eight or nine or ten years old...I feel so inefficient because I'm the least scientific of all the science fiction writers in the world...I think most of you know that and could tell me that couldn't you?
(clapping, a male audience member shouts out 'Also the best!,' followed by more clapping)
It's embarrassing because I continually have eighteen year old boys and sixteen year old boys and then ten year old boys come up to me and say things like this 'Mr Bradbury?, I say 'yes', ' In that book of yours The Martian Chronicles' I say 'Yes', they say 'on page 110 of that book', I say 'Yes', 'Where you have the moons of Mars rising in the East' I say 'Yes', they said to me 'No!' (laughter) It's awfully difficult to be bullied by a ten year old boy...and I have never bothered to go back and research and find out whether they were right or not, I'll be damned if I'll put up with that!
That's not what I'm up to anyway, I'm a...moralist, I'm a...preventer of futures more than I am a writer of futures People are always saying 'What do I predict?' but that's not my business, I 'm intrigued with machines, I'm intrigued with space, I've been interested in the stars since I was a child. So you have before you then a half ignorant person who has been excited by this potential and who has been fortunate enough to live in this fantastic age especially in the last few years . When I go down the list of the scientists coming to speak here after me in the next ten or twelve weeks, it really is frightening, because, I wasn't all that, that really fine a student."
-LOOKING FOR THE METAPHOR
"But let me do my best this evening to give you some of the ways I try to seize on the material that they have handed me over the years. I get excited, I explode all over the place when I hear certain kinds of ideas, I get intrigued by them, I have been involved with Mankind's position in the center of a very mysterious Universe...so...if I do anything at all tonight it will be in terms of...of trying to find the metaphor...to represent these ideas. We are living in a period of history right now where we're inundated with facts, aren't we? We've had too many almost...Why every time you turn on the television set and watch the various Moon landings, you're inundated with hundreds of thousands of facts that you're trying to make do with.
And I went down to Houston five years ago, and met most of
the astronauts...for Life magazine, I was going to write an article
for them...and what I saw there. And in four or five days I must
have taken in five hundred thousand separate facts...and I called
Life magazine on the telephone one morning and I said 'Fire me.'
(Laughter) and they said 'Why do you Wanda be fired?' I said 'Because
I don't understand what I'm looking at. It's too much, It's too
much, I'm up to here, I don't understand, uh, I'm drowning in
facts.' They said 'We believe in you...you've got to stay on the
job!' (laughter) I said 'How much time do I have?' they said '24
Well strangely enough that did it, because I woke up...the next morning...with the metaphor, it's the thing I'm always looking for. The poetic...metaphor which embodies and puts a skin around an idea, so that I can handle it...and If I can handle it, well I can pass it on to you, and you can turn it over. And the metaphor I came up with down at Houston was the metaphor of the Theater of Space, the Theater of History that I saw there before me. I think it's the first time in the history of Mankind where man has so intensely rehearsed himself before he went out and made history. Because space is so dangerous, so full of terror, so full of panics, so full of destructions and annihilations, that if you make the littlest mistake out there you're dead in a billionth of an instant. So that's why we had to rehearse. I know I've heard people saw on occasion 'well, aren't these men robots, are they not technological freaks, these astronauts going off into space?' No, that's not what it's all about.
The time we are living through, especially down in Houston
where they're rehearsing the things that you see acted out before
you on TV cameras when we land on the Moon is commensurate with
the time of Columbus...as if Columbus had gone to Queen Isabella
and said 'Give me so much money with which to construct twenty
six boats, twenty six crafts, I'm also going to dig an immense
false Sea of Spain. And I'm going to take these various crafts
and set sail the worse seasons of the year throughout all of Spain,
with these various ships, these various crews, and I'm going to
terrify my men with various kinds of climates, we're going to
test them with panics'. And I'm going to go to man like Leonardo
Da Vinci and say, 'Hey Leonardo, I have this task of going to
the edge of the world and falling off...will you help me with
that?' and Leonardo will say 'Yes, what do you want me to do?'
Well the myth has it, the story has it, that waiting for us at
the edge of the planet are these monsters, these dragons, these
beasts, waiting to devour all of us. So I want you to to build
some three dimensional steam driven robot dragons which I will
sink into this false sea of Spain, to terrify my sailors with,
and then I will test them with these panics', and Leonardo says
'it's done, I will do it'.
And he constructs these robots, and they are sunk in the false sea of Spain, and they rise up to terrify the sailors, and after a period of two years of rehearsals...of history, Columbus dismantles the three finest ships and goes over the edge of the Earth toward elephant India, and collides with the New World! This is the metaphor that works, this is what we're doing in space...we have to rehearse this intensely. Once I can grasp on to a symbol like this I can write a story. I can do a play. I can write a [?] book...so that I can articulate...my ideas about space and hopefully articulate yours so that you nod your head in agreement."
-ON MOBY DICK, MELVILLE, FILM WRITING AND RELIGION
"I don't know how many of you know anything about my past
background in film but this ties in too. Back, about eighteen
years ago I wrote the screenplay for John Huston's 'Moby Dick'...which
was a wonderful...it was my first screenplay, a wonderful experience
for me. But it taught me, again, about several things, it taught
me about Melville, because I head to read that book nine times
over in a period of six months to try to understand it, to get
it to go in my blood system so it would come out of my fingertips,
and I could do the screenplay.
But along the way, I fell in love again with Shakespeare because Shakespeare was the instructor of Melville, and the Bible was the instructor of Shakespeare. So, I had a multiple experience then, not only with Moby Dick, but with Shakespeare and with the Bible again. And from my encounter with these remarkable men, these remarkable ideas, these remarkable minds, I began to write my own plays, some of my own films, based on things I have learned from Melville
So, about twelve years ago, MGM studios came to me and asked me to do the narration for 'The King Of Kings', not a very good film I'm afraid. They finished the film, they spent seven million dollars on the picture, when it was all done they came to me and asked me to write a narration to cover up all their sins (scattered laughter) I ought to write an ending for the film...can you imagine...they came to me without an ending for ' King Of Kings'! I said 'have you read the Bible?' (more laughter) I had a fight with the studio, had a fight with the studio, because the head of the studio wanted to take Judas Iscariot out of the picture.(loud laughter) and I finally succeeded in getting Judas Iscariot rehired. (laughter) and put back in the film. This sort of thing is fascinating, and it ties in with my own experiences as a space writer, science fiction writer because in writing the narration for the film, going back to the Gospels, I was reminded of my own childhood...and it gave me a number of ideas which tie in with the subject we're discussing tonight. And everything you're going to hear in the next ten or twelve weeks will come back to this subject again and again and again.
We live at the center of mystery. We know nothing, we share ignorances...and I imagine that's why you're here tonight and why I'm here, to try to find certain kinds of new metaphors to explain the mystery to ourselves. Combinations of Theology and Science to refresh ourselves with. We all...looked in the...uh...Time magazine eight or nine years ago, do you remember that particular issue, where it said 'God is dead'? And we all knew that he was because Time said so? (laughter) Uh? And then about two years ago they had a second issue which said 'Is God alive again, is God coming back?' and that had to be true because they said it also?
We've been going through this fantastic period where there's been a revival of interest in faith with the arrival of the 'Jesus Freaks' on the scene, with the...uh...reincarnation of interest in Astrology, certainly, is one indication of a of revival of some kind of faith in something. That's curiosity that makes us hungry for answers. So...I can foresee in the next thirty or forty years, if you would like to ask a prediction of me, the banishing of the gap, the so called gap, between Science and Theology, which I never believed was really there to begin with because, we, we share this ignorance, we really know nothing, we do things on faith, scientists live by faith, the current theory they're going by is really going to work out all down the line, And the same moment that the Theologian is preaching...very much the same thing...because this light upon this world is indeed...a mystery to us."
-HORROR FILMS AND DEATH
"And it's is like the mystery of death, while we are all intrigued. I don't know how many of you here tonight are lovers of horror films as I am, how many dozens of times you've seen Dracula and Frankenstein...well, I'm an ooold...fiend for this kind of film. And...people have often said to me 'Why do you go back to see those ridiculous films?' but to me they are not ridiculous...they are a way of examining...nothing!
(audience affirmative noises and clapping)
That's very important, because if a thing can't be handled it must be handled...the very fact we cannot pick death up and turn it over and make do with it and digest the hair ball...and survive, that's the important thing. So we invented these myths for ourselves. We know that we have to stay sane.
We know we have to make it through this existence upon this Earth. So therefore we have varieties of ways of making do with information, If the horror film, the terror film, the pure film of death like Dracula enables to run our tongue over that vacant spot in our jaw where someone pulled a life out of us that's we have to examine that death, we have to examine our own mortality. We're here tonight for the very same reason...to examine our chances for immortality the...what happened...a billion years ago, to cause life to rise up on this Earth what life really is here, it's a mystery to us still, we're still in the process of making do. Religion has gone down the shore, it's coming back up again, it has to come up in new forms."
-A SHORT STORY SUMMARY
"It's my business, as a writer of myths, a creator of metaphors, a poet, a self...fourth rate philosopher, to find the new language for myself, and hopefully for you, to re interpret that part of the Universe that stands before us.
So out of my experiences with Moby Dick, out of my experience with Shakespeare, out of my re introduction to the Bible, I began to come up with some ideas...let me give you one of them that I wrote into a short story about two years ago. It's a story about a bunch of Priests, and Ministers, and several Rabbis, on Mars, after Mars has been colonized. They're sitting around one night, talking about...the Cosmos, talking about creation, talking about what it is to be a Christian...and there's hardly a Christian boy in the history of the world who hasn't been filled with similar ideas, I remember when I was ten being filled with the same ideas. And these ministers and priests, and this Rabbi are talking...and one of the priests says 'I remember...isn't it true for all of us, all Christians, that each of us thinks that he's the Second Coming? And...sitting at table one night when you're nine or ten years old you think to yourself Oh, if my mother and father only knew who I was!' (laughter) 'Wait till they find out! When will I work the first miracle?' ZOW! Ya know? And I either walk on the water of the bathtub...or I destroy my brother.
Or...or elevate the teacher into the air and turn her over three times and put her back down...something of the sort. And then you get to be eleven...when you've tried the miracles and they don't work and you give up being Christ...and go on being an ordinary Christian boy. Well, these Priests and these Ministers are talking about this on Mars one night...and they turn to the Rabbi and say to him 'Isn't it a...do you have a similar sort of experience among the Jews? I mean, do any Jewish boys think they are Moses for instance, and the Rabbi laughs and says 'NO!' The Messiah, the Messiah! And the priest says 'Forgive me Rabbi, of course...we're waiting for the Second Coming, your Messiah's never arrived!'
'How stupid of me, how stupid'...and so they have this wonderful conversation and they have a few drinks, and they're talking about...the colonies on Mars, and it's late evening and the Martians who've been seen in the distance in the middle of the Martian landscape, and they speak of the Martians ability to be telepathic and to create images and etcetera, etcetera...and during the evening they hear a rumor from one of the nearby colonial towns on Mars that a Martian has been seen near one of the communities...and they forget about this and they go on with their conversation and one of the Priests finally says 'Well, you know, I never wanted to...to be Christ but I always wanted to meet Him. And maybe that's why I became a priest so if He ever did come back I'd be in there.'
And...they have a final toast for the evening and the Rabbi goes down the hill to his Synagogue, the ministers go away to their Parish and Catholic Priests shut up the church and go to bed. And at two in the morning, in the midst of this Martian landscape, this young Priest who has been talking most of all day, evening, sits up in bed and listens...and he hears a sound downstairs in the chapel, and he dresses quickly and goes down and tests all of the doors, and he finds one door open at the back of the church, and he turns and he hears a dripping sound in the night, dripping sound...something splashing in the night. And he calls out, he says ' 'Father Leary is that you? Father Kelly is that you?' No answer...
He sees a bright light in the back of the church in the Baptismal
area. he approaches, and he looks into the Baptismal fount...Chapel...and
there...is the figure of a man standing behind the Baptismal fount,
with beard, long hair, beautiful eyes, a long robe...the man's
hand is held out in the air afore, and from the center of his
palm, drop by drop, blood is falling into the Baptismal fount.
The Priest falls to his knees crying out 'O Lord, O Lord, we've wanted to see you all of these thousands of years...and you've come back, you've come back! And the figure behind the Baptismal fount pulls back his hand from which the blood has been dropping into the fount and says 'No! Don't do this to me! Let me go! Free me! Don't freeze me this way!' And the Priest cries out 'Let me look at you! We've waited 2000 years, let me look at you'. And the figure cries out again, says 'If you do this to me it will kill me!'
Then the priest realizes then suddenly that the man who stands before him here...is not...the return of Christ, but a Martian...trapped in the image of Christ. Out of the image of, in his head. Out of the dream from his childhood. Out of the talk earlier this evening. A Martian passing in the night is seized...by this memory and frozen into this shape, and now stands before him. And the thing cries out a last time 'Please let me go, you're killing me', He says finally 'Let me look at you one last moment, and then I'll let you go.' And the figure says 'What do you want of me?' He says, I'll let you go if you promise to return one night each year for the rest of my life'. The figure says 'Yes yes! Anything! Let me be! When do you want me to come back? And the Priest replies...'Every Easter'. The Martian says 'Yes! I know your holidays, Let me free! '
And he puts his hand over his eyes, and he hears the running of feet, the door slams...he runs to the door of the church and would open it, and would look out at this fleeing figure in the Martian landscape but is terrified to do so because he doesn't want to freeze this figure forever, and destroy this man. He closes the door, he leans against it, he turns and looks at the empty church with all the candles lit on all the chapel walls...and walks down the isle, he flings himself...on the main alter and begins to weep. For himself, for this night, for that man out there running in the night, for that image, for his encounter after two thousand years, but most of all because he'll never be able to tell...anyone. End of story."
-JULY 20, 1969-'BRADBURY WALKS AT MIDNIGHT', AND THE PANEL
"Now that wasn't my point here, my point is we must find new ways of picking up old material. Supposedly that's what Science Fiction is all about. The old things get tired, the old metaphors wear out, the old myths are re digested and come forth in new forms. So we have a plentitude of facts to work with. So I'm always looking for a new way...of saying old things. As often as possible, when the ideas hit me, within the hour, I go and write them down, and put them on paper...so I can look at them and examine them and see if they are valid. I had a number of experiences like this, I wish I had more...humorous things to tell you, this particular kind of encounter. Most of the stories I've done in the field have been rather serious and I don't want to be...dead serious during this whole evening because it's an evening of celebration really.
Perhaps it would be good for me to tell you...the experience I had...the night of the Apollo landing in London three years ago, to lighten the moment, ah, for a few seconds anyway. I think you know how intensely I felt about space travel since I was a child...I never dreamt that I would live, really, to see the landing on the Moon...I hoped I might live to see it...and...by Godit finally did happen three years back. I felt privileged... I felt...as though I was the luckiest person in the world to be alive that particular night. I was asked to appear that evening on the David Frost show in London., happened to be on the night of the landing. So I went to the David Frost show, they have all kinds of celebrities there, including the Lord Mayor of London as I recall...and around about 8:30 or 9:00 that night they, we landed on the Moon London time...and we were all in tears. I don't know how many of you were, but I most certainly was.
I thought it was a very special moment in the history of Mankind. I waited to be put on the air. I waited half an hour. And finally an hour. And they put on that great space expert Engelbert Humperdinck. (laughter) and I waited an hour an a half to be, I wanted someone to ask me 'What does it mean? What is it all about?' I just wanted, on that one special evening, to have someone look me in the face and ask that question. Because I hope, I feel, I think, I believe...I have some of the answers. I hope I do. But, an hour and a half went by and they put on...that other great space expert Sammy Davis Jr.(laughter) Well, I love Sammy Davis Jr., he's one of the great entertainers of our time, but this was not the evening for Engelbert Humperdinck, or Sammy Davis, Jr, the scientist.
Any other night, any other night...so I walked out of the studio into the parking lot, the producer came running after me saying 'What are you doing?' i said ' I came out for some air but I think I'm leaving!' He says 'Well, you cant do that' I say 'Oh yes I can...I don't like you, I don't like David Frost, I don't like your show...I don't like your network...(loud laughter and applause) He said 'Oh you're not a nice man' I said 'Oh, let's get our priorities right...You're not nice...I hate you all! You have managed to destroy in half an hour, in an hour, the greatest night in the history of the world! The greatest night in the history of the world, you managed to turn it into Vaudeville. They'll have Jesus Christ doing a tap dance here next! (laughter) The kind of people you are, I said Take your hand off my elbow, keep your money, let baby go. I got a cab, I got the hell out of there. The next morning, I'm very proud to say, and this is terribly egotistical, but it is in the London papers, it said 'Armstrong walks at two AM, Bradbury walks at Midnight!'
(Loud laughter and extended clapping)
I went on, over to CBS, blind fool that I was, and I did a TV show there instead. And I was...confronted by...a panel...of three...great intellects, and I mean that on several levels, seriously and facetiously at the same time I suppose, the Lord, Guard Ritchie Calder the scientist, a very wonderful gentleman indeed, the Bishop of Geneva, and Bernadette Devlin from the North of Ireland. (laughter) Well I knew I was in for trouble...because all of them were saying 'Oh, why are we spending all this money on space, why are we not spending it all and doing this or doing that ...and I've heard this argument a million times now...and I've had to defend space. And I will defend space here this evening, once more, again.
And finally, when all three of these intellectuals had finished lamenting space travel, Oh the waste, Oh this, Oh that...I finally said 'Hey everyone, shut up! Everyone shut up, all three of you, you don't know...the least thing of what you're talking about. You're totally ignorant the whole three of you! And now I'll tell you what space is. You, miss Devlin, what do you call yourself? She said 'A hooligan liberal', I say 'A hooligan liberal is it?' I said 'In the face of the greatest night in the History of the world, you are a reactionary conservative.' That hurts.
That did. You don't dare call a liberal that, you know, I'm bad...wow...I've been called that too it hurts, yeah...so her jaw drops, no one had ever really confronted her with this sort of thing, I said 'I'll tell you another thing I know about you Irish, I lived there for a year, working on Moby Dick. The truth about the Irish is: the front part of your tongue moves, the back half's not connected to your brain.'
Big trouble. BIG trouble...but she's still [ fencing?], she's still on, OK...So I proceeded, I said 'What, what do we have here tonight? What do we have here tonight? This...is the result of six billion years of evolution, this very evening...We're sitting here in this studio...our men have been on the Moon two hours...it took billions of years for this Earth to cool, for the rains to fall, for the oceans to form, for the animalcules to come out of the chemistry and ferment of the seas. For the small creatures of the sea to give up their gills, to build spines, to crawl out on the land, to hide in the caves, to, to seek the trees, to come down out of the jungles. To till the fields, to build the cities, to envy the birds, to SEE THE STARS! To...revile gravity and...finally wish to wind up somewhere else except riveted here to this tombstone Earth! Tonight, we have given the lie to gravity! We have reached for the stars. We have touched down on another world! After six billion years of evolution, and you refuse to celebrate? TO HELL WITH YOU!
They didn't say a word! (laughter)
The whole thing about space travel is the eventual immortality
of Man. That's what the whole thing is about. All these other
things, all the other side issues fall away to nothing. And as
I went on saying to these three worthy people on the TV show,
I said 'Don't hand me this guff about all that money being spent
on the Moon. We have spent nothing on the Moon. At no time have
we ever spent one dollar, one dime, one nickel or a thousand dollars
on the Moon. It's all been spent right here...right here, to employ
people, to feed people, to put roofs over heads, to educate people,
to give us a new idealism, my God we need one...we've been walking
like dwarves for years...because of Vietnam. Huh?
We've been dwarves! Now something really worthwhile comes along, the eventual history of mankind in space. Starting six billion years ago, winding up on Earth and heading back to the stars. I think this is an endeavor well worth thinking about. A thing that makes us all feel responsible toward one another. We are it. We are the thing that thinks. We are the thing that dreams in our part of the Universe. I love the responsibility of knowing this, and I've tried to put this into various stories."
-HIS NEW PLAY, 'LEVIATHAN 99'
"If you'll permit me...I have done a play...God help you
all! (laughter) ...based on 'Moby Dick' called 'Leviathan 99'
and its about, it's late in the future, it takes all the mythologies
of Melville, it takes the mythic concepts of Melville, it takes
the influence of him and of Willy Shakespeare, both huge men in
my life, and I've tried to make sense of some of the ideas I've
talked to you about already tonight, in this play.
My play begins, if you can believe it, 'Call Me Ishmael', hmm? Ishmael, in this year 2099, where strange new ships sail toward the stars instead of under them, attack the stars instead of fearing them, a name like Ishmael? Yes, my parents blew with the first trade winds toward Mars, turned less than gray, gone sick for Earth, they went back home. Conceived on that journey, I was born in space.
A child so birthed in desolations, homeless between yester morrow and Noon's Midnight must have a proper name. My father knew his Bible, and recalled another outcast who wandered dead seas long years before Christ. And I being so far the only child conceived, fleshed, and delivered forth in space, how better to name me, than as my father did, touching the dark warmth where I hid restless in the days before my birth , and he did indeed call me Ishmael.
And I take my Ishmael to Cape Kennedy, to Houston, and have him prepared, as an initiate astronaut, and be introduced among all the members of the crew, and make friends with a comrade who sleeps in a cubicle with him. For me, this person who will be riding with Ishmael to the stars, his name is quell (? and he's never seen this man because this man is from far Andromeda. HmmM? And before he ever sees him he has to go into this dark room late at night and he thinks to himself 'I do so hope he isn't a giant spider. (laughter) I have tried so very hard to like spiders all my life...but it would be just terrible if he were an eight foot tall spider. (more laughter) and he goes into this room late, and he sees this long form lying there, and he thinks to himself 'Who's there?' could it be...' and a voice in the dark says 'A spIDER'? HmmM?
This...form rises up and the man is...is vaguely human...and, but about seven or eight feet tall, and they, they confront each other, and look at each other, and say 'Describe Humanity' to each other, and well I'll put it this way: Are we not strange, but what is human...size, shape, color...no...a light that burns within us. Ten billion small fires, small Suns that speak with tongues and say 'behave well, you are all creatures of the Sun. Fire beckons you out of the clay on far distant separate worlds. But fire you are and all fire's the same. Take care you do not give darkness to each other.'
And Ishmael says 'Oh yes, Quell...that is Human...And so Quell then, they become friends, and they fly off to find a spaceship together , and then they go to the...sSpacemen's Chapel. If you recall Moby Dick, before all the whaling people went away they went to hear Father Mapple give a sermon the night before they shipped out. I have a similar man making a speech except he's a robot preacher, if you can believe that. I always like to throw those things in, makes intellectuals nervous. (laughter) I wrote a story about an electric Grandmother too, ya know, ah...
It was very, very , very human indeed, that also made people nervous. So here we have, in the pulpit there before us, stood a man who died a hundred years ago, but so remarkable a man was he they did computerize his soul, trapped his voice in tapes, made circuitries of his merest breath...built a robot, yes but more...Father [Ellery Hollworth], gentle essence of the man and his peace, and this is what he said: 'Is God dead? an old question but once hearing it I laughed and said 'No but simply sleeping 'til you chattering bores shut up'. (laughter) A better answer is 'Are you dead?' Does the blood move in your hand? Does that hand move to touch metal? Does that metal move to touch space? Do wild thoughts of travel and migration move behind your flesh? They do. You live and therefore God lives.
You're the thin skin of life on an unsenseing Earth. You are that growing edge of God which manifests itself and hungers for space. So much of God lies vibrantly asleep. The very stuffs of worlds and galaxies, they know not themselves. But here God turns in his dream. You are the dream he stirs in his sleep. You are that stirring. He wakes. You are that awakening. GOD REACHES FOR THE STARS! You are his hand, creation manifest! You go in search, He goes to find, you go to find...himself!
Everything you find along the way therefore will be holy, on
far worlds you will meet your own flesh, terrifying and strange.
But still your own. Treat it well. Beneath the shape, you share
the Godhead. So, the things that I have in my play here, are reminiscent
of the things that people like George Bernard Shaw described in
his...speaking of... creation of the Universe. the fantastic miracle
of energy and the materials of the Universe transforming itself
through billions of years into...thoughts...and into will.
We are the result of bombardment of Solar energy, of pure chemistry, if you want to be...technical about it...but that out of this...Solar bombardment...came this fantastic creation...this thing which knows itself...and...knows that it knows that it knows...and feels responsible to the gift. I don't know how you feel about yourselves, the future of the World, the future of the universe, but I welcome a chance to pay back the debt...I feel very privileged to have been alive once, I ...don't look forward to being recycled (laughter) But as long as I'm here I must pay back the debt by trying to figure out just what is going on. And I try to figure it...to a place like this. If you'll permit me I'll go to another section of the play beginning to..."
(cassette side ends, 15-20 seconds later the recording on side two begins)
"...tremendous success, or the worst failure...but that's, that's the way you have to surprise yourself, that's the way you have to experiment...I think you can see that my mind has been in constant ferment now for quite a few years because of the influence of some rather remarkable people. Uh, you can't do better than Melville and Shakespeare and you can't do much better than the four Gospels. And out of all this ferment accompanying these ideas, the idea for the Messiah story I was telling you about, the idea that I wrote some years ago, as you might know, called 'The Man', where these rocket men land on a far world the day after Christ has left that world, and the sort of paradox that ensues from that encounter...I...as a boy who went through his normal period of Atheism when he was sixteen, and had his Grandma knock his glasses off as a result of it...it's always surprising to find, later in life, how many of these misdeeds you come back to and try to make do with."
-EVERYTHING WE DO IS A RELIGIOUS ENDEAVOR TO SURVIVE
"So naturally, I have finished this play 'Leviathan',
I have had these encounters with the people on various TV shows,
I have made my arguments about space travel, because I believe,
in summation, that everything we do is a religious endeavor to
survive. And the men who follow me here in the coming weeks, while
they will not be under a religious banner, cannot help but try
to relate themselves to the total universe, because that's what
religion is all about, relating themselves to the Mystery, trying
to find the tools whereby they can speak to this remarkable thing.
So, I've had my encounters then with...Bernadette Devlin, and
the Lord Ritchie Calder and the intellectuals of our time, and
I consider all of them to be completely wrong, and I am completely
The only way to look at it, it's simple and direct , that gives everyone a chance to hate you, they know exactly where you stand...and I stand...for the future of Mankind, in space. It's gonna take a big effort, we may not do it, may not make the Big Trip, for several hundred or several thousand years, yet. But we will make it...and we must make it, there's no use generating life on this Earth, generating intelligence, having any concept of ourselves if we don't move to save ourselves. So that follows that in the next fifty years, the next hundred years, we have two missed jobs to do, don't we? We have to make peace with ourselves, that's a huge job we have before us. We have to make peace with the, the climate of out planet, we have to un pollute ourselves, we have all these immense jobs, I've never for a moment lost sight of any of this, in fact for those of you who are purists, certainly know that one of the first ecology novels written in this country, twenty two years ago, was 'The Martian Chronicles'...right? I discovered this recently myself. (laughter) Thank God I didn't know it as I was writing it...it would have been a boring book.
But...we have two jobs to do then... To solve all the problems
here on Earth, then to get off of the Earth as fast as we can.
(favorable audience response) It is an unstable Universe. it's
a strange world. We have a strange Sun, we know nothing about
that Sun really, nobody can safely predict the Sun is going to
remain in its present state, probably it will. For a million years.
But I think our destiny is not to stay here, not to be satisfied...am
I saying anything different than has been said a thousand times
by more competent people than myself?
Am I saying that space is going to make better people of us? I'm not saying that, not for a minute. I wouldn't kid you. I believe the...Mankind that goes into space will be as paradoxical as every single one of you here tonight, and as I have been for a lifetime. We are combinations of light and dark, and good and bad. We are part Lucifer and part Christ. We are...this strange combination of things which one moment celebrates itself and the next moment destroys. We are indeed a mystery. I wish to take that mystery into space, I'm willing to take the chance.
I don't believe you have to stay here because you doubt wether your influence will be all that good in the Universe. It will be half and half. And as far as we know, at least in this part of the Universe, we're the only thing...that cares. As Kazantzakis put it in his remarkable book, and if you don't have the book, I would urge you to go from this meeting and buy it in the next several days 'The Saviors Of God' ...'God cries out to be saved...we are the thing that saves Him. We save ourselves, it's all one. We are the foundation, we are...the universe, we are...God. That's good enough for me. We are the thing that turns in its sleep. So, I'm going to go on writing this particular kind of poem, this particular kind of play, try to make my points."
-THINGS TO COME
"Let me indicate...a film to you that some of you may
have seen over the years. Have most of you have seen the film
'Things To Come' by H.G. Wells. uh? (clapping) There's a great
scene in that, that film that I remember, I think the film came
out when I was sixteen years old...and I'm sure that it influenced
me deeply and helped...keep my courage up, I was writing Science
Fiction in High School at the time and I was terribly lonely with
the occupation and...At the end of that film do you remember when
the intellectuals of the world rushes on the rocket ship, and
threaten to destroy it?
And they cry out to Passworthy, and I think the part was played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke...and he cries out, at the edge of the chasm, 'Down with the rocket, stop this nonsense! Will Mankind never know peace? Will man NEVER know peace...why this...desire, to move out and on, why this ridiculous posturing in the Universe. And Passworthy turns to his friend Cabal, and asks the question again, and Cabal at the end of the film, watching his son and daughter going off to the Moon on a rocket, says 'No, there will never be peace, until we are secure in the Universe. Until we pass on and make do. There will never be that kind of peace here on the Earth because we must move on. We must make do. with everything, or nothing.
If you stay here, you die in the dust. You go down with the worms. So...the story of mankind right now is from Stonehenge to Tranquillity Base, and beyond. We cannot be contented, we have to do both jobs at once. We have to make do with our conditions here on Earth. Shut down all of our wars...shut down all of our wars...and accept one another and love one another because we all are, are all part of the same thing. If we truly believe that, if we truly believe that, we would have a great world."
-SUMMING UP AND A CONCLUDING POEM
"So, healing that wound, and then preparing the star ships,
and then going off to become immortal, so that images...of all
the faces here this evening...will go on through history...so
that a billion years from tonight, people living on some far planet
going around some strange world will look back and say 'I wonder
if the generation that lived in the 1960s really knew what generation
that was...The most privileged generation in the history of mankind...They
were the first ones that touched space. They were the first ones
to guarantee our immortality...Because of them, we moved four
light years, ten light years, twenty light years into space.'
And the gift of life as we know it...goes across all of space.
And your children's children's children will live forever-THAT'S
what space travel is about. And I'm sorry I can't give up the
And so, in the weeks to come as you follow the arguments and presentations of the various scientists that come here, and many of them with huge carloads, and rocket loads of facts...I want you to play these facts against the ricochet board I've tried to provide you with tonight. The sort of, esthetic, the metaphor I've tried to discover for the Cosmos and our place at the center of it.
Now if you'll permit me I have several other...I'm always carrying poetry with me...when I find people like yourselves I trap them with it...It's the sort of thing I'm not allowed to read around the house most of the time...my children run screaming from the room, and I try it on friends and that doesn't work. I have a little fragment here...I've been re writing the book of Job if you can believe that...
And...I have, in this particular thing I won't read to you though, I have Job afflicted with all the miseries that mankind is supposedly afflicted with on Earth today, crying out to God saying 'Why do you do this to me?' and God replied 'Because you don't know that we're one and the same person. When are you going to realize that? When are you going to settle down? then all your boils will disappear. All your afflictions will go away. If you REALLY knew, if you really believed we are one and the same person, Job, that I am not something 'out there', that I am here, these things would cease, I would stop putting upon you in this way.' So,I am trying to do something with that idea in this longer poem that I've done of Job. And if you'll permit me, I have a short poem here with which I would like to end the formal part of my speech. After which we will have a question period.
So...the title of this poem, which I think sums up most of
the things I tried to discuss tonight, is called 'If We Had Only
The fence we walked between the years
Did balance us serene;It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We'd reach our hands to touch and almost thouch that lie,
That blue that was not really blue.
If we could reach and touch, we said,
'Twould teach us, somehow, never to be dead.
We ached, we almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
So, Thomas, we are doomed to die.
O, Tom, as I have often said,
How sad we're both so short in bed.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God's cuff, His hem,
We would not have to sleep away and go with them
Who've gone before,
A billion give or take a million boys or more
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching thus to keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.
O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam's finger forth
As on the Sistine Ceiling,
And God's great hand come down the other way
To measure Man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever's Day?
I work for that
.Short man, Large dream.
I send my rockets forth between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Will is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We've reached Alpha Centauri!
And We're TALL! Oh GOD...we're tall!"
(Extended standing ovation)
A question and answer period followed, although the questions are generally inaudible.
Ray's answers to the most savable one:
'The question deals with meeting another civilization like our own out in space...we will probably circle around each other for quite a few hundred years...(laughter) We will probably be in radio contact for centuries probably, so there will probably be no culture shock when we finally do see one another. The very first film I ever worked on was a film called 'It Came From outer Space'...and, uh, you remember that? OK...(clapping) Well it wasn't much of a film but the theme was nice...and the theme was, we should be prepared for strange shapes, sizes, textures, contours in creatures on other worlds.
And the best place to find out about this is down at the Ocean. When you go standing on the edge of the Ocean you are standing on the edge of another world. You're a million light years out in space. Those creatures in the ocean are as different as the things we will be meeting on other worlds. So, we're trying to understand the language of the Porpoise aren't we? It's this sort of preparation that will be good for your astronauts a thousand years from now, when we confront a civilization of spiders...which will be very hard to keep your stomach down about, right? And they in turn will be shocked by us, so we'll be in radio contact for centuries and borrowing information from each other long before we ever meet if we ever do. We'll probably stay in touch and never meet because of our mutual diseases. Things of this sort which prevent [meeting?]"
End of transcript. The recorded and transcribed portion is about an hour long.