One of our best writers and most successful visionaries, and a man whose words had a powerful influence on my own childhood, has left us. Books like Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood’s End, of course, but most particularly his short fiction – and of that, first and foremost, “The Nine Billion Names of God“. I’m not sure why, but I read that story at just the right moment in my life – around the time I read Asimov’s “Nightfall” and Heinlein’s “The Roads Must Roll” – and my world was forever changed, however slightly. These stories brought home to me the impermanence of all things, and awareness that we humans have the power to contribute to that impermanence but also to cope with and alleviate it.
I would like to offer this poem to the memory of Doctor Clarke; it’s not really in the vein of his work, but I like to flatter myself that he would have recognized the sentiment.
When Dreamers Cease to Dream
When dreamers cease to dream then there is sorrow
In the crystal starlit world they leave behind,
Abandoning their sacred gift of vision
At the gate-post to the kingdom of the blind.
An hundred worlds left unexplored forever,
A thousand voyages ne’er undertook,
They seek for solace in another’s dreaming,
Between the pages of another’s book.
And all their unborn dreams shall rise to face them
When they take their place before the judgement throne,
Accusing more in sorrow than in anger
The faithless ones who left them all alone.
So walk those worlds as long as you are able,
Leave no forgotten field or wood untrod,
And treat your dreams as though they were your children;
For so they are, and you their only god.