The genius is dead, but long live the genius in the impact his imagination had. Two days ago, we lost Ray Bradbury at the age of 91. Yes, I am a bit sad at the passing of my mentor and friend (perhaps it would be more accurate to call him an acquaintance, as we only chatted or visited intermittently over the past thirty years). We first met when I was a student at the famous Santa Barbara Writers Conference. The following year, based on the success of my book, Moneylove, I was invited to join the faculty and teach a class on nonfiction. I also ran the midnight-to-whenever Pirate Workshop. This was a session where writers of all levels of experience and success met to read portions of their works-in-progress and get feedback. Ray was the permanent opening night keynote speaker. As in his books and short stories, his talks were always mind-challenging and totally entertaining.
I interviewed him for my 1981 book, Psychological Immortality, and we began a correspondence. I was fascinated when he told me of his Mr. Electrico experience and he promised to send me a copy so I could refer to it in my writings and seminars. When it didn't arrive right away, I presumed he had forgotten the promise, but never reminded him. So imagine my surprise when it arrived about six months later, with a scribbled note on the photocopied typed nine page manuscript. His note said, "Dear Jerry, I promised you this many months ago. I hope you can still use it. Best, Ray." The somewhat tattered pages have remained one of my most prized possessions for thirty years. In the hours since his death, I've been surprised at the attention this relatively unknown tale has gotten, along with several articles on the apparent mystery of whether there really was a Mr. Electrico. But real or not, it's a great story of the magic of inspiration, which Ray Bradbury provided so many of us.
I recently did some writing about Albert Einstein, as well as featuring him on my latest audio for the Moneylove Club. I noted that though Einstein was always modest about his intellect, calling his great achievements a result of his patience and persistence in looking for solutions, he really was a genius. Scientists studying his brain years after he died in 1955, discovered it was much larger than usual, and even had some physiological differences from the brains of most of us, allowing him to make some connections more easily than normal human beings. I suspect the same might be true of Ray Bradbury.
At one point, chatting with him while he was approaching 80, he told me he still wrote one short story a week, and was working on some ideas with the Disney theme park people and on a project with the Jacques Cousteau Society, as well as various movie and TV projects, and his beloved visits to high schools to talk to students. Yes, I'm a bit sad, but also very envious. What a life! What a long and creative career, and he seemed to love every minute of it. One of his quirks was that he never had lunch with anyone, thinking it was usually a waste of precious time. I therefore considered it a unique honor that we once shared some street food while walking around his LA neighborhood. I will continue to honor his memory by striving to imitate his creative energy, and never bemoaning the fact that to do so is probably impossible.
More of what I learned from Ray Bradbury on my other blog: http://moneyloveblog.com/ray-bradbury-my-motivational-mentor/