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Is Love Just a Fantasy? Is That a Good Thing?
By Heath Shive
As one critic put it, Terry Pratchett was “the wisest and gentlest of teachers.”
Terry Pratchett is my favorite author. He had more than 85 million copies of his books sold, in more than 37 languages. Pratchett was also a knight in the United Kingdom!
But he’s most famous for his Discworld series, of which there are 41 novels.
Pratchett thought that Mercy and Justice were fantasies.
And he thought that was a wonderful thing, even an essential thing for people!
I would say the same about Love.
Want to know why?
To the Terry Pratchett!
Hogfathers and the Power of Fantasy
In Pratchett’s Discworld, magic is so strong that if enough people believe in something, then it becomes real. If enough people believe in a certain god, the god will pop into existence. Gods can also die from a lack of belief.
There are also Auditors – creatures of the Universe who keep the laws of Nature running smoothly. The Auditors hate life because life is sloppy, messy, and chaotic. But Death (who is a person) admires life – because he admires the way we continually try.
In the novel Hogfather, the Auditors set out to assassinate the Hogfather – a kind of Santa Claus that brings bacon, sausages, and hams to good boys and girls every winter.
Death and his step-granddaughter Susan set out to stop this. And they succeed. But at the end, Susan wants to know Why.
Why would Death care about whether children have a Hogfather to believe in?
Death explains: children need to practice believing in little fantasies (like the Hogfather), so they grow up to believe in even bigger fantasies, like mercy and justice!
Susan shouts, “They're not the same at all!”
But Death responds (in capital letters): “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…”
To Death, the universe gives us carbon, methane, water, etc. But there is no mercy or justice or love in the universe. Humans invented these concepts.
It is the very invention of these fantasies – including Love – that make us human!
Or as Pratchett’s Death says, these fantasies make humans “THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.”
The Fantasy of Love
Without these fantasies (Love, Mercy, Justice, etc.), we cannot be human. We would just be another animal.
That is why a public education has to be about a common pool of fantasy. How else could large groups of people believe in the same concepts of freedom, equality, and justice?
Because a fantasy must be shared in order to grow.
Two people can share a great love – which means they both have the same fantasy at the same time. A few couples share this fantasy for a lifetime. The fantasy exists – it becomes real – as long as you believe in it.
And sometimes, one of those two lovers (or both) stops believing in the same love – the same fantasy – which leads to a reality called divorce.
The older that I become, the more I distrust the fantasy of Romantic Love.
However, the older that I become, the more I believe in the fantasies of Kindness and Compassion – which are also kinds of Love.
But the real question is this: What will you believe?
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Pratchett, Terry. Hogfather. HarperPrism, 1998.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.