Reading today’s news one cannot but imagine that the grim reaper has been craving for a bit of headline news and, not being content with deaths of multitudes which remain anonymous and ironically less effective, has focused on individuals or issues worth of note. In Pratchett’s books the grim reaper is a philosophical quasi-human character with a stakanovistic approach to his work. His conversations with persons who have just passed away are brimming with irony and framed with a weird sort of compassion-cum-lack-of-understanding of the human race. His pronouncements are always in block capitals so as to emphasise the eerie emptiness of speaking to the last being before moving on to another place (which is never revealed incidentally).Here is an extract from Mort, the book where Death meets his apprentice:
– “My granny says that dying is like going to sleep,” Mort added, a shade
– I WOULDN’T KNOW. I HAVE DONE NEITHER.
and here in Feet of Clay Death clarifies his job description:
I AM DEATH, NOT TAXES. I TURN UP ONLY ONCE.
one last one from The Last Continent where Death explains a popular saying relating to the moments before we die:
PEOPLE’S WHOLE LIVES DO PASS IN FRONT OF THEIR EYES BEFORE THEY DIE. THE PROCESS IS CALLED ‘LIVING’.
Ironic, compassionate, examining, whatever this character at the doors of afterlife does the human race seems to always have been convinced that something will meet our soul once it leaves the material world. From Hades’ dog to St. Pete at the doors we have always assumed the existence of a guide who shepherds us to the place of our just desserts. In my case I’d love to meet Pratchett’s death… please.
The Great Communicator is going
Johannes Paulus II, Karol to friends, has high fever. The last few months must have been pure agony for the pope with pipes being inserted all over the place in an effort to keep the old wise man alive for a little longer. I respect the man though I do not agree with his excessive conservatism I also see where he comes from and I understand that the Church is built on values that one cannot (and probably must not) change overnight.
It is because of that that I sit on the outside porch of the establishment gazing inwards occasionally with awe at its magnificence and noting sadly certain shuffling of feet in some areas such as contraceptives and women priests that keep me outside. The over 1 billion believers around the globe have had one shepherd since 1978 and that is JP the Great Communicator. You cannot hate the man. You cannot even begin considering it. His travels around the globe made the papacy a truly global experience. He has been a guide and model for many and he wielded the olive branch as though it was the strongest sword of all.
I speak of him in the past. I know, he is not passed away yet although many would agree that it would be for the best for the man. He is my pope, the pope my generation has known – the only one (his predecessors died when I was three). My first school project was about the Papal Shooting by Mehmet Ali Agca, I still remember cutting out the story from The Times and writing a one liner caption underneath it in my scrap book. He was definitely one of the pushing factors behind Solidarnosc and the beginning of the end of the East-West divide. He was a goalkeeper, a skier and I am quite sure quite a handsome popular young man in his youth.
It seems you are on the way out (or in) JP. We owe much to this great Pope and even greater Man. I am sure that the ushers in this afterlife will have no difficulty moving you to that Very Important Pope place that you deserve. May there be enough ski slopes in heaven to give you the pleasure that you deserve!
Another visit of death would have been to the bedside of Terry Schiavo. The woman who has been in a coma since 1990 was at the centre of yet another debate on euthanasia. Assisted death, sounds a bit like Mort or the Death of Rats, both assistants of the fictitious characters. Did she want to die? Would she have chosen to die of starvation after 13 days? I do not know. I am not sure about humankind’s control over life and death. Life support suddenly switches to death express, I would definitely not like to be the man pulling the plug, head mask or no head mask I would still feel like an executioner.
Maybe such stuff is best left to professionals… death himself for instance.
Apologies for the morbid blog. I could not help it. But I will leave you with a humorous quote, from Maskerade another Pratchett masterpiece. This time Death is away (always an indication of death of a minor personality in the books) so the Death of Rats steps in:
– “But I don’t believe in reincarnation!” he protested.
– And this, Mr Pounder understood with absolute rodent clarity, meant:
Reincarnation believes in you.