We are coming to the end of the first week of traditional Advent (with the older and wilder Celtic Advent beneath it). This week I have been writing about hope, something which feels in short supply at times. And I have mentioned my feeling that it doesn't really matter if a belief has objective reality as long as it gives us hope, or peace, or joy, and harms no one. It matters so much that we have strength for the journey. Which is why I have never quite stopped believing in Father Christmas, or believing that us believing in him makes him real at least. Because I believe in us.
There is a quote from 'Hogfather' by Terry Pratchett, who I often go to for words of wisdom. It always takes me aback with its raw and honest beauty, only faintly hidden beneath Terry Pratchett's warm and wondrous humour. This quote often makes me cry, because even on my most despairing and cynical days it touches the little spark of hope in me that never goes out, the belief that if we wish for something hard enough it will come true.
In 'Hogfather' Death tries to take the place of the eponymous Hogfather, a mythical being who seems to be a cross between Father Christmas and a Norse God. On Hogswatch Night (December 32nd), the Hogfather grants children wishes and brings them presents, and he is also responsible for the sun rising. But he has gone missing, kidnapped by a group who want to stop children believing in him, or in anything, and there are plenty of people in our own world who would love to do that. Belief is a fragile thing, and Death knows that it matters just as much as the sun rising. Both would mean the light going out. Here, Death explains to his grand-daughter, Susan, why belief matters so very, very much...
"All right," said Susan, "I'm not stupid. You're saying that humans need...fantasies to make life bearable."
REALLY? AS IF IT WERE 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 thing 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."
(From Terry Pratchett's 'Hogfather')
And this is why it doesn't matter to me whether our belief has an objective reality. It only matters that we believe in something. Something that tells us that life is worth living and that we can be better than we often reveal ourselves to be. As, the ever wise, Death also tells us, MERE ACCUMULATION OF OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE IS NOT PROOF.
A few days ago I mentioned the belief of writer David Southwell, curator & recollector of Hookland that 're-enchantment is Resistance.' I am quite sure that Tery Pratchett would agree.
|'Happy Hogswatch' by funkydpression|
Buy the book from Waterstones
Buy the DVD (I am not familiar with this seller but wanted to find an alternative to Amazon)
On Hogfather as the best defence of Christmas