It is said that someone at a party once asked the famous philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle ‘Why are you here?’ and the reply took three years…
Terry Pratchett (The Light Fantastic)
He’s gone forth, but will live on in hearts and minds, and especially on bookshelves, whether made of wood, stone or metal, or embodied in code within plastic and silicon.
A few hours after my literary hero set out on the last great adventure, my husband, Pete, rather unexpectedly joined Terry on that journey, although his body lingered for another half a day before all signs of life abated at 10 am on 13th March. Pete had turned 64 two days earlier, and Terry would have been 67 next month. In this advanced technological era they should both perhaps have had many more years with us, but the anthropomorphic personification of Death (the Discworld version that is) is very punctilious at being there at the proper time, with sword or scythe, to ease the going forth into whatever lies in store next.
Pete and I do not hold to any particular faith, but Terry’s cosmological view of things, where everyone should at least try to be nice to each other and then go to the ultimate reward we think we deserve (deep down we know when we don’t merit a happy afterlife if our ‘during life’ wasn’t exemplary…), always seemed sane and comforting. Terry, though sometimes the darling of atheists, occasionally described himself as a humanist which is a belief system that gives the nod to people needing spirituality of some kind in their lives and nowhere was this clearest than in his most fantastical creation on the Disc, a place that never succumbed to racism, simply because there were so many sentient lifeforms to choose to be ‘speciesist’ with… Trolls and Dwarves were particularly keen on warlike pastimes and events, regularly re-enacting the Battle of Koom Valley (the date of which was spectacularly movable in time and space, and definitely mystical in terms of what actually happened). This was the thing with Terry’s books though – the specifics may have been weird and wonderful but the core and ethos echoed and resounded with reflections of what goes on everyday, for everybody here on the Roundworld. Everything good, bad, ugly, evil and angelic could and did happen and the heroes, whether they were ‘regulars’ like über-witch Granny Weatherwax, police commander Sam Vimes, or politician par excellence Havelock Vetinari, or zen-ninja History Monk Lu-Tze may or may not have used magic (or had it inflicted upon them), but what always carried them through was their heads and reasoning and – just doing the right thing. That, and never treating people, of whatever shape or hue, like ‘things’ that don’t matter, for this, in Discworld is when evil truly sets in and lays waste to all the good intentions and dogmatic inflexibility of any mindset or belief system you care to name.
Baby boomers seem to thrive on humour and Pete was no exception so, even though he came to PTerry fandom late, I always knew he’d appreciate the satirical comedy of Discworld and the other novels because, like Terry, he enjoyed characters like Jeeves and Wooster and adored Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hikers series (doesn’t that first quote remind you of the voice of the ‘Guide’ 🙂 ). And it was the comedy and laughter that attracted me and kept me coming back for more with Terry as well as with Pete, because they both could always, and will always, make me laugh. It’s why I will always love and remember them.
Words are still hard to come by and I’m trying not to force them with false heroics, so that’s enough for today. There’ll be more to come over the following days as reality settles and I move through what needs to be done, but there’s time for another quote from what is my enduring favourite discworld novel, Small Gods, on the subject of manifestations and bulls…
‘It’s a big bull,’ said the tortoise.
‘The very likeness of the Great God Om in one of his worldly incarnations!’ said Brutha proudly. ‘And you say you’re him?’
‘I haven’t been well lately,’ said the tortoise.