26 January 2006

The hat filled up with stars...

Ah, Terry Pratchett. I just finished A Hat Full of Sky (Amazon) Definitely a good read, and a book that was difficult to find. It's one of his books that gets classified as a children's book. I finally located it in the new Barnes and Noble in IF. Yes, I could have ordered it through Amazon at any time, but unless I have other things to order (and remember to order it with them), there's not much use in it.

One of many things I love about Terry Pratchett is that he understands people, and he understands what real magic is. More importantly, he understands what it isn't.

"And Mrs. Earwig," said Mistress Weatherwax, her voice sinking to a growl, "Mrs. Earwig tells her girls it's about cosmic balances and stars and circles and colors and wands and...and toys, nothing but toys!" She sniffed. "Oh, I daresay they're all very well as decoration, somethin' nice to look at while you're workin', somethin' for show, but the start and finish, the start and finish, is helpin' people when life is on the edge. Even people you don't like. Stars is easy, people is hard."

People are surrounded by real magic. Seeds sprouting up from a nest in the earth. Wind blowing rain and snow and hail. The feel of a single breath, expanding and contracting the body. The voice of a friend over the telephone. But that's not what people think they want.

They think they want miracles. But a miracle in that sense doesn't belong in this world of wonders. If they didn't have blinders on, they'd stop and stare in amazement at a tree, at a beetle, at a heap of sand, at a rotten banana peel. They train themselves not to see, not to be a part of it, not to feel. Kayo Robertson (one of my taiji teacher's teachers) imparted a valuable lesson that now seems obvious. People tense up to try and shout to the world, "This is me! The rest of this is not me!" But try tensing your hand and having someone run a feather or a piece of paper across it. Then try it with the hand relaxed. You can't feel when you're tense. You can't experience what life has to offer. You can only clutch and scream "MINE!" and dread the day your body ceases to function and becomes food for the worms and find that you have no conception of the realm beyond death because you so rigidly opposed your own life.

Hmmm... that turned into quite the rant. So to lighten the mood a bit:

"Well, yes," said Miss Level. "we do what can be done. Mistress Weatherwax said you've got to learn that witchcraft is mostly about doing quite ordinary things."

"And you have to do what she says?" said Tiffany.

"I listen to her advice," said Miss Level coldly.

"Mistress Weatherwax is the head witch, then, is she?"

"Oh no!" said Miss Level, looking shocked. "Witches are all equal. We don't have things like head witches. That's quite against the spirit of witchcraft."

"Oh, I see," said Tiffany.

"Besides," Miss Level added, "Mistress Weatherwax would never allow that sort of thing."


John said...

Crivens! I read it mainly for the Nac Mac Feegle.

Qalmlea said...

Ach, the Nac Mac Feegle are also coo-ite entertaining, ye ken?

Anonymous said...

Check out the Feegle Free-Fall game: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/discworld/freefall.html