Sunday 8 January 2012

fireplace: lessons from Terry Pratchett

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God - the free life! - even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. [James 1:25 - The Message]
It's only the first week of the year, and I have to admit that I haven't been very successful in keeping my resolutions. On top of a predicted extremely busy week at work and falling sick, I had this sudden urge to re-read all four of the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett (The Wee Free Men, A hat full of sky, Wintersmith, I shall wear midnight). I love the way Pratchett defines his witches, especially Granny Weatherwax, in terms of doing Right and giving people what they need. He talks about responsibility, especially for those who have the ability. Responsibility and Right isn’t what we normally talk about these days.
In “The Wee Free Men,” when Tiffany is facing the Queen, and is almost losing, she remembers that the Fairy Queen had said that all witches are selfish. It seemed to be a little bit of a hopeless, depressing situation,
But Tiffany’s Third Thoughts’ said: Then turn selfishness into a weapon! Make all things yours! Make other lives and dreams and hopes yours! Protect them! Save them! Bring them into the sheepfold! Walk the gale for them! Keep away the wolf! My dreams! My brother! My family! My land! My world! How dare you try to take these things, because they are mine! I have a duty!
In “A hat full of sky”, Tiffany is starting to grumble about the endless things she needs to do for people who can’t help themselves, which have nothing, in her opinion, to do with witchcraft. Granny Weatherwax sets her right with this:
"Now that's what I call magic - seein' all that, dealin' with all that, and still goin' on. It's sittin' up all night with some poor old man who's leavin' the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin' their terror, seein' 'em safely on their way... and then cleanin' them up, layin' them out, making 'em neat for the funeral, and helpin' the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets - which is, let me tell you, no errand for the faint-hearted - and stayin' up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin' on your door 'cos his wife's havin' difficulty givin' birth to their first child and the midwife's at her wits' end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again... That is the root and heart and soul and centre of witchcraft, that is."
The thing is, sometimes following Jesus should be that way. We read James 1 in Cley today, and verses 21 - 27 talks about being doers of the Word, and not merely listeners. It talks about taking action on what we know, what believe, saying that pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep yourself unspotted from the world. It’s talking about being fruitful, in attitude first which leads to action. It’s not the action itself that saves us - the saving has already been done - but sometimes it’s the action that centres us, that reminds us that this world is not all about us.
We are selfish people, but not quite selfish enough. We think in terms of our own comforts, our own needs our own wants, and we forget that the world is ours. It’s not ours to play with and discard, but it’s ours for us to be responsible over. It’s ours to own, to say that all these, all these who seem lesser than us, who seem smaller, poorer, weaker than us ARE ours. Their lives and dreams and hopes are also ours, and whilst we do not save them ourselves, we help them to the saviour. If each of us were to feel the tiniest bit of this kind of ownership, this kind of selfishness, our offices would be a better place to work at, our country would be a better place to live in, our world would be a better place to be.
On an aside, I've also been thinking about generations and how they affect the family and society. If you look at it, families have been breaking down. Children don't really know their family history, or their grandparents as much as they used to. Life is not as knit as it used to be, where legacies were passed down from generation to generation, attitudes are not being passed down adequately. People use to know what their family stood for, they used to care about a family name, about doing things right, and doing things well.
An interesting thing I stumbled across while reading the Bible, was this whole passage in Genesis 5, where the genealogy of Adam is laid out all the way until Ham, Shem and Japheth. And being the numbers person that I am, I randomly started counting the ages and when each person was born, and came to this astounding realisation: Adam possibly lived up until the time that Methuselah was born
That's Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahlalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah. Eight generations. I may be wrong, of course. I could have counted it wrong, because I was counting in my head whilst lying on my bed, and of course you don't really know how accurate these years are.
You do know that "Enoch walked with God and he was not, for God took him home with Him", and this is purely conjecture, of course, but I was thinking - what if, it was because of little Enoch, sitting at great-grandpappy Adam's feet and learning about actually physically walking with God in the garden of Eden that brought him close enough to God to make that possible?
I'm probably the worse person possible to talk about family and generations. But it was just such an insightful moment. Imagine, if you were able to see the lives of your relatives for eight generations - to see the full impact of God in their lives, when you were old enough to understand and relate, to have gone through the same cycles they have gone through and still be able to sit down and talk about it over dinner, and not have to conjecture, I wonder what mom/dad would have done - how would that change your life?