I recently had the pleasure to see made for TV version of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. Sure, it wasn't as good as the book but adapting a Pratchett book for the screen will always be a daunting task and if you ask me they did a pretty good job. If you are a fan of Terry Pratchett but you haven't read The Hogfather - basically the plot revolves around the Auditors of Reality hiring the Assassins Guild to kill The Hogfather and Death stepping in to help save him. If you haven't read The Hogfather and you don't know Terry Pratchett's work - well honestly I wouldn't even know where to begin catching you up. Go read the Discworld novels, they are brilliant and they will make you laugh so hard you'll probably pee a little. However they are not just funny, they are just as often quite profound.
After watching this I was especially struck by a conversation at the end of the story between Death and his granddaughter Susan:
“All right,” said Susan. “I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. 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.
She tried to assemble her thoughts.
THERE IS A PLACE WHERE TWO GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, said Death, apropos of nothing. DON'T TRY TO TELL ME THAT'S RIGHT.
“Yes, but people don't think about that,” said Susan. Somewhere there was a bed...
CORRECT. STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’S HARDLY ANYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A... A BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.
OH, YES. A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY. YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS INSIDE YOUR HEADS.
“You make us sound mad,” said Susan. A nice warm bed...
NO. YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN'T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME?"
I often like to ponder life's big questions (sometimes even without beer!). Questions like: Do things happen for a reason or do they happen due to random chance? Do I have a purpose in life or is the universe ultimately devoid of meaning and purpose? After listening to that conversation I think I finally know the answer. The answer is: Yes.
It's strange how sometimes things manage to be astoundingly complex and stunningly simple all at the same time. But that's what you get when you put people in a universe. Thanks to people, the truth is sometimes bigger than the facts. Surely if the universe had no people in it, it would contain nothing but facts. Alas, it does have us and so instead it is filled with so much more. It is quite an amazing talent we have, something so amazing it's hard to not be utterly amazed by it and yet... And yet somehow we don't even seem to notice it at all. We can take random chance and give it meaning. We can take the cruelty of an indifferent universe and craft it into purpose. Can we not see what a miracle it is when we turn accident and tragedy into something deeply meaningful? When we take the senseless and force it to make sense? When instead of settling dutifully under the yoke of happenstance and coincidence like every other creature we instead reshape it and make it work for us? Who else in all of creation can even dream of doing as we do?
See that is why I have no problem believing that the tale told in Genesis is true. I don't think it is factual though - I in no sense believe the world was made as is 6000 years ago complete with dinosaur fossils to fool the heathen scientists. Yet who can watch humanity craft nothing into something and salvage beauty out of tragedy and still not comprehend that we are made in the Image of God?
Well I guess I know the answer to that too - we can. Humans are hands down the strangest beings in existence. We are bursting at the seams with awesome majesty and yet somehow we manage to become bored. Bored! Can you imagine that?! We can behold, understand and create beauty and splendour far beyond the dreams of anything else that breathes and yet we can content ourselves with sleepwalking through our brief lives. We can dream so much bigger than lives we know and yet we can satisfy ourselves with scraps of mediocrity. I think the fact that we even manage to use the term "self fulfilling prophecy" as a derogatory term is mind-blowing!! What madness is this?! We can imagine a possible future for ourselves and then make it happen and then somehow manage to snort at the very idea of it - as if it were some trifling thing!!
Therefore, to our storytellers, our poets, our singers and our artists. To our dreamers, our planners, our thinkers and philosophers. To everyone who can look at that which is not true and turn it into truth (or at the very least convince us that it could become true). To all who remind us that we are so much more than we think we are. To those who show us that what doesn't destroy us can indeed make us stronger. To everyone who turns randomness into purpose and to those who make the meaningless mean something.
Thank you. Thank you for creating the true, the beautiful and the wonderful where once it was not, for reminding me that everything that isn't but should be, can be. Thank you.
The photos are of graffiti by Banksy on the Israeli West bank barrier and Bethlehem. I think his art shows the juxtaposition of facts and truth far better than I could ever hope to.