Category Archives: Terry Pratchett

Belief and the cosmic telescope

On days when we feel fragile, it is vital to remember how much vitality we have.  Certain gifts are made accessible in the moments that we need them.  There is no end to our supply but our belief systems become so firmly locked in place we succumb to the will of the projected majority.  Individually, we can feel we have no power.  From the ego’s vantage, the power we have is limited to what we can grab.  We are not dog kings that need to flash swords to defend our alloy thrones.  We are folded in grandeur.  Do constellations despair that they are powerless in the sky?  Are we observed and marveled at even now?
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Julia and I are holed up at the airport. Our flight to Ft. Lauderdale has been delayed.
On the heels of little sleep, my outlook on reality has been revivified by thumbing through issues of The New Yorker that we haven’t had time to peruse during the past month.
New Yorker
Culture, humor and a literate lens make a great tonic.
It is vital to recall in moments of burnout or exhaustion that the rabbit hole we are looking down isn’t necessarily the future but a willful insistence that we look through the wrong end of the telescope.
Of course it could be said that I often look through a kaleidoscope. In honor of this, I would like to share a scene from the Terry Pratchett movie, Hogfather. (Hogfather is Santa Clause on a fantasy version of earth called the Discworld.) The character speaking in all caps is Death:
HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY.
You need to believe in things that are not true, how else
Can they become…?
Terry quote
May we continue to believe in peace on earth and good will to all sentient beings.

Narrativium and you

Julia and I arrived safely home from our musical journey out to the Midwest. We are very grateful to the friends and family who supported us along the way.  As we rolled along we began listening to The Globe, a collaboration between Terry Pratchett (surprise, surprise) and professor Ian Stwart and Dr. Jack Cohen.  In the book there is a scientific comparison between Discworld, which runs on magic,  and our world, which is run by the laws of nature and a little of what the book colorfully calls “narrativium”. Narrativium is the narrative that human beings weave into stories that can cause things to occur.

For example, the laws of nature “seem to forbid an earthbound object suddenly leaping up and landing on the Moon. That is not to say it won’t happen, only that you’d have to wait a very, very long time before it did. ‘These objects are on the Moon because centuries ago people told stories about it. First, she was a goddess and when full could turn men into werewolves. Then it changed into being another world. Nevertheless, there are several things on the Moon that came from Earth.’”

“Stories said that by harnessing swans or spheres containing dew men could fly there.” * Later, Jules Verne wrote a story about a giant gun in Florida that could fire a hollow cylinder to the moon. These stories drove us to essentially fire a hollow cylinder from Florida to the moon in 1969.

Our original flip phones were fashioned after Star Trek communicators; technology especially seems to be driven by narrativium.

Becoming aware of narrativium can help us. We are telling stories to ourselves and each other all the time and are not aware of how powerful these stories are in motivating our actions and molding our reality.  Negative stories keep us mired to a constrictive reality while the stories that fill us with expanded bliss open the door to opportunities for manifestation.

Dr. David Hawkings in his book Letting Go points out that even during The Great Depression there were people that did not buy into the collective story that everyone was broke and these individuals became or remained rich. If everyone around you is sick, you don’t have to buy into that story either.

We see how the story of marriage equality has manifested itself.  Perhaps awareness of narrativium in our lives can help us shift our focus from fear to manifesting a story where human rights and dignity are upheld as consistently as breathing.

May you know who you are within your tale.

*-taken from The Globe and a blog about it by Moonrouge at http://www.collectspace.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/004204.html

The Globe

 

 

 

 

 

Treats for the Tricksters

Today is historically known as All Souls Day, so let’s play some Otis Redding, Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye to honor the dead baby!
I hope you had a happy Samhain (pronounced sow-en), or you may call it All Hallows Eve or the young Halloween, (as opposed to the ol’ Halloween).  Stemming from a Gaelic celebration marking the start of Winter, the holiday’s original treats were offerings for relatives who had died and whose ghosts might have enjoyed some wine, bread and other goodies.  Children started dressing up as the ghosts to mess with the adults and thus the pranksters created the tricks.
While Halloween is sometimes frowned upon as too dark, demonic or not wholesome, I personally think it is healthy to treat our inner trickster at least once a year.  The trickster is a vital part of our human psyche.  There has to be something within us that gets us to lighten up and tear down the walls we have built around our beliefs.  “Normalcy is a fallacy!”  is a battle cry my friends and I have often employed in our revels.
There are famous tricksters that we revere as being part of our established reality.  Ben Franklin, for example, used to slip articles under the door of his brother’s newspapers written by a window named Silence Dogood. He would also slip made up verses into his bible and read them to folks he thought were pompous. These folks would often pretend like they recognized the ‘scriptures’ he read.  
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
– Mark Twain
“Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out alive.”Bugs Bunny
One of my favorite tricksters is Hafiz of Shiraz, who was always exasperating the fundamentalists of his day. Ironically, my favorite renditions of Hafiz poetry are written by Daniel Ladinsky, who is a trickster in that he published renditions that capture the essence of the poetry rather than direct translations. This exasperates ‘serious’ scholars.  Here are a few renditions for you:
Retire In The Alps
The great religions are the ships,
poets the lifeboats.
Every sane person I know has
jumped overboard!
Hafiz, it is good for business,
isn’t it? 
Indeed,
 but I would rather retire in the Alps!
 
I Had a Legitimate Excuse
I had a legitimate excuse for not going to the
mosque and temple to pray.
It was because love is so wild in me I might
break the fragile glass cage that all religions
are made of.
 
And… since Julia and I have been binging on audio books by Terry Pratchett as we gig along, (the ones narrated by Stephen Briggs are our favorites), let’s have a quote from Granny Weatherwax, a wise trickster and witch:
“…And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.
“It’s a lot more complicated than that . . .”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
– Granny Weatherwax from Carpe Jugulum
*   *   *
 Ben as prankster
Let us trick ourselves into being more humane and savoring the sweetness of life.

Sir Terry Pratchett: Knight of the Light-Hearted

Julia and I rode around this weekend maintaining the balance between being inspiring and insipid, optimistic and pollyannaesque, we were assisted in our quest by listening to Stephen Briggs read Terry Pratchett’s novel Snuff.

Sir “Terry” Pratchett was a prolific humorist, who wrote mainly fantasy novels, especially about a Disc-world, which is a flat world held up by four elephants who are riding on a giant turtle’s back that is swimming through space. Although he also wrote for children, Sir Terry’s work offers adults ethics, wisdom, deep appreciation, and a poetic and philosophical perspective with a masterful comic wit. His book Snuff uses Goblins to personify the petty evils of racism and slavery. He champions women’s dignity and rights in Monstrous Regiment. He upholds the best of what it is to be human without the use of a soapbox, but with witches, blue tiny men with kilts and an array of more memorable characters than Dickens.

He published his first story at the age of 13, left school at 17 and became a journalist until his Disc-world fame allowed him to write full time. In his Who’s Who entry, he credited his education to Beaconsfield Public Library, where he read H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and the like.

Towards the end of his life he developed Alzheimer’s disease, which he characterized as an “embuggerance”. He advised folks to “keep things cheerful”.  Of himself he said, “We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism.”   When he thought the condition was going to get much worse, he spoke out for assisted suicide, although he didn’t like the term; he was for going out with dignity.

Going out with dignity rather than suffering slowly is certainly something I support. And yet, he wanted to pull the curtain in 2009 and the book we just finished reading was published in 2011. Sir Terry, knighted in 2009, passed naturally last month on March 12. His last novel will be out in September and what it holds for us I feel was certainly worth him holding on for. His readers and I are grateful for his dedication, which brings a laughing light into the complexity of living.

May your week be something worth reading aloud when you come back to it in your mind.

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“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”

Terry Pratchett

“He will be much missed, but what a legacy of wit and good cheer he leaves us!”

Ursula Le Guin

“He wasn’t imagining an alternative universe; he was reimagining ours. His fantasies sit alongside – and are the equals of – those of Rabelais, Voltaire, Swift, Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. He’s surely our most quotable writer after Shakespeare and Wilde. Granny Weatherwax’s definition of sin – “When you treat people as things” – is all you need to know about ethics.

Whereas all my beloved P G Wodehouses and Philip Pullmans are neatly arranged on the bookshelves, my Pratchetts are strewn under the beds, in the bathrooms, the glove compartments. They have shopping lists, takeaway orders and Scrabble scores scribbled on the fly leaves. They were part of life.”

Frank Cottrell Boyce

“Of all the writers I’ve read, Pratchett felt the most human. There was more truth in a single one of his humble satires than in a hundred volumes of poignant drama. Unlike most comedians—who use their humor like a weapon, always out for blood—Terry didn’t cut or bludgeon. He was far too clever for that. Instead, he’d slide down onto the bar stool beside us, drape his arm around us, and say something ridiculous, brilliant, and hilarious. Suddenly, the world would be a brighter place.

It wasn’t that he held back, or wasn’t—at times—biting. It’s just that he seemed to elevate every topic he touched, even when attacking it. He’d knock the pride and selfishness right out from underneath us, then—remarkably—we’d find ourselves able to stand without such things.

And we stood all the taller for it.

Sir Terry, you have my sincere thanks. I don’t think that, despite your many accolades, the world knows what it had in you.”

Brandon Sanderson

“The world has lost its bravest of knights.”

Terry Brooks

“Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. “

“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.” –Terry Pratchett