Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Flying Machine

The story that was pushing itself forward in my mind last night even as I was writing about The Poisonwood Bible was Ray Bradbury's classic little allegory, "The Flying Machine." One of the things I like about this story from a teacher's point of view is that it is readable at pretty much every level from upper elementary (I first encountered it in a Grade Six literary anthology) through college. It tells the story of the Emperor Yuan, whose serene contemplation of the beauty of the morning is interrupted by a servant who announces that a man is flying.

Update 7.20.07: The passages from the text quoted in my original post have been removed at the request of Don Congdon associates, Ray Bradbury's literary agents.

This elegant little parable raises what is perhaps the classic and defining questions in regard to sustainability. Because we can do something, does that mean we should do it? Does the availability of new technology carry with it a mandate to use it? Are there some kinds of progress that we would be better off without? Are there some rivers we should not cross?

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