The wisdom of Terry Pratchett

So, I’m in the middle of my annual re-reading of Hogfather; and as an early Hogswatch gift, and because I can’t think of a better tribute to the Master in light of the recent news, I thought I’d share a couple of the (many) choice little gems in what I consider to be his most spiritual book.

Ridcully, after a few more trial runs, settled on a song which evolves somewhere on every planet where there are winters. It’s often dragooned into the service of some local religion and a few words are changed, but it’s really about things that have to do with gods only in the same way that roots have to do with leaves. “-the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer-”

Gods don’t die. Don’t completely die… There’s always somewhere[,] inside some stone, perhaps, or the words of a song, or riding in the mind of some animal, or maybe in a whisper on the wind… Dead, perhaps, but only like the world in winter.

“So why, every year, do we hang a damn great bunch of mistletoe up there?”
“Well, er… it’s… well, it’s… it’s symbolic…”
“What of?”
“Of… the leaves, d’y’see… they’re symbolic of… of green, d’y’see, whereas the berries, in fact, yes, the berries symbolize… symbolize white. Yes. White and green. Very… symbolic.”
“What of?”
“I’m not sure there has to be an of.”
“Ah? So, it could be said that the white and green symbolize a small parasitic plant?”
“Yes, indeed.”
“So mistletoe, in fact, symbolizes mistletoe?”
“Funny thing, that. That statement is either so deep it would take a lifetime to fully comprehend every particle of its meaning, or it is a load of absolute tosh. Which is it, I wonder?”

Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

And, finally:

You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?


4 thoughts on “The wisdom of Terry Pratchett

  1. Cat Chapin-Bishop

    Yes. Oh, very, very yes.

    I once heard a brilliant man give a talk on the Kaballah, but using only plain English words. It was breathtaking, trying to keep up with the flash of his ideas, no longer cluttered up in the terms I knew them by. It was quicksilver wit, and only someone who really, really understood his subject could have taken it on in that way.

    Terry Pratchett on mythology is a bit like that. Only because he so clearly _gets_ it about the deep meanings of things can he be so funny and so wise all at the same time.

    Thanks for this.

  2. nettle

    “Really? Then what would have happened?”

    I always think of that bit before dawn on the Solstice. It’s why I keep doing this stuff, you know? To make sure the sun keeps on rising.

  3. executivepagan Post author

    Yep. I actually regard him as in some ways one of our generation’s most original religious thinkers. (Another passage that I should have included in this list is where he talks about the deep rituals “descending to the level of religion”…)

    Damn skippy! We have presented a Winter Solstice service at our UU church for the last several years, and most years we have that bit as a reading – from “What would have happened…” down through “Humans need fantasy to be human…

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