Saturday, March 14, 2015

What Terry Pratchett Meant to Me...

He never knew it, but Terry Pratchett was a profound influence on me. I admire his brilliance, his cutting insight into the nature of people, and his ability to put profound truths into simple words. For me, reading his books was not abou the funny, although the humor always went down easily. It was his insight.

When I realized that I did not believe in God, I was at a loss. What do we look to for direction in a Godless universe?

"There is no justice, there is just us." He wrote in Reaper Man. Let me unpack what that means to me. What does life without the promise of afterlife leave us with and what does it leave us without? If there is no God, then there is no final justice. After death, the virtuous will not be rewarded, unjust not punished. There will be no justice meeted out by something that is not human. There is only us. Only we can make the justice we seek. Only we can be the kindness we see in the world. No one else is responsible. We are.

In THUD! he wrote: "Beating people up in little rooms . . . he knew where that led. And if you did it for a good reason, you’d do it for a bad one. You couldn’t say “we’re the good guys” and do bad-guy things.". This is the most succinct critique of the two-faced side of American (and I assume other countries) politics. In the wake of 9/11, we justified outselves with the unspoken conclusion that our enemy was a savage, and that they would only understand savagery. That we were justified in breaking our own laws, and using ridiculously convoluted logic to demonstrate that we it was the right thing to do, convincing only those that wanted to be convinced. But Pratchett is of course, right. You can't call yourself the good guy and do the things you say only the bad guy does. Especially when those actions have been known for a long time to be ineffective in eliciting correct information. Further, the 'end justified the means' logic is corrosive. Once a person does something terrible for a good reason, it's easier for them to do again, even for a reason that is less pressing, or noble.

In Carpe Jugulum: "And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself." Treating people not as people is, of course, bad. And we do it every day. In my current job, I am often treated as a barrier between the person and the money they deserve, regardless of the condition of the item they wish to sell. They do not see me as John Goodrich, author, blogger, reader of books, the guy who cries at the Sarah McLaughlan song in Toy Story 2. They see me as an ATM that is failing to dispensing money. And in turn, I see them as junkheaps who are trying to pawn off crap because they are hard up for money. And this does neither of us any good, and does nobody any credit. It is easy to dismiss people, but everyone has an inner life, a sense of who they are, people they love, dreams and goals. When we do not treat each other as such, there is always friction.

In The Wee Free Men: "If you trust in yourself ... and believe in your dreams...and follow your'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy." This is somthing I incorporate into every novel I write. Being creative is work. Nobody is actually Cinderella or Luke Skywalker, or Neo, chosen from birth to be awesome. Everything worth doing is work, and art is hard work.

The Egyptians built themselves gigantic tombs, hoping they would not be forgotten. Terry Pratchett labored long and hard to build momuments in peoples hearts. And in me, at least, he succeeded. Farewell.

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