Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

9.25.2014

Humorists Often Provide the Best Philosophical and Social Commentary

“Joy was not the raw material of humor . . . The dark source was sorrow.”

― Sid Fleischman, The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West
Terry Pratchett is a greatly admired and beloved author of a large collection of humorous books.  A friend who is a huge fan has described his early books as parody and most everything since as satire.  He is a master of wit and a great supplier of wry laughter.  So it might be easy to assume he is a jovial person, and there is reason to believe he even fits that description at times.

Based on his books I've read, though, that wouldn't be my expectation, and it seems I might be correct.  Neil Gaiman has just written an excellent article about him, that he doesn't write from a place of amusement but one of anger.  Sorrow, outrage, frustration, anger--discontent with the way things are--those are the emotions that fuel the most effective humor in my experience.  Pratchett is no exception.

Excerpts from the article:
I want to tell you about my friend Terry Pratchett, and it’s not easy. I’m going to tell you something you may not know. Some people have encountered an affable man with a beard and a hat. They believe they have met Sir Terry Pratchett. They have not. . . .

Terry looked at me. He said: “Do not underestimate this anger. This anger was the engine that powered Good Omens.” I thought of the driven way that Terry wrote, and of the way that he drove the rest of us with him, and I knew that he was right.

There is a fury to Terry Pratchett’s writing: it’s the fury that was the engine that powered Discworld. It’s also the anger at the headmaster who would decide that six-year-old Terry Pratchett would never be smart enough for the 11-plus; anger at pompous critics, and at those who think serious is the opposite of funny; anger at his early American publishers who could not bring his books out successfully.

The anger is always there, an engine that drives. By the time Terry learned he had a rare, early onset form of Alzheimer’s, the targets of his fury changed: he was angry with his brain and his genetics and, more than these, furious at a country that would not permit him (or others in a similarly intolerable situation) to choose the manner and the time of their passing.

And that anger, it seems to me, is about Terry’s underlying sense of what is fair and what is not. It is that sense of fairness that underlies Terry’s work and his writing, and it’s what drove him from school to journalism to the press office of the SouthWestern Electricity Board to the position of being one of the best-loved and bestselling writers in the world. . . .

He will rage, as he leaves, against so many things: stupidity, injustice, human foolishness and shortsightedness, not just the dying of the light. And, hand in hand with the anger, like an angel and a demon walking into the sunset, there is love: for human beings, in all our fallibility; for treasured objects; for stories; and ultimately and in all things, love for human dignity.
I might add, however, that though there most certainly is anger, it is more than just raw emotion.  A recent study has concluded that it is the logic centers of the brain, not emotion, that are most active in those who are sensitive to issues of fairness and justice.  Pratchett and those like him are upset because the evils they are reacting to defy logic and reason.  They have good reason to be angry.
“It’s a bad case o’ the thinkin’ he’s caught, missus. When a man starts messin’ wi’ the readin’ and the writin’ then he’ll come doon with a dose o’ the thinkin’ soon enough. I’ll fetch some o’ the lads and we’ll hold his heid under water until he stops doin’ it, ‘tis the only cure. It can kill a man, the thinkin’.”

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

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 “Oh, I feel very angry a lot of the time," said Tiffany, "but I just put it away somewhere until I can do something useful with it.”

― Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

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