Monday, February 11, 2013

The Turtle Moves! - Terry Pratchett's Small Gods

Some quotes and a longer excerpt from my new favorite Terry Pratchett DiscWorld Novel Small Gods. So funny, I think I had at least a laugh a page and often multiple ones at that. I was laughing out loud on the plane and on the beach!

The Turtle Moves!

"Oh, a very useful philosophical animal, your average tortoise. Outrunning metaphorical arrows, beating hares in races... very handy."

"It's a god-eat-god world."

And it came to pass that in time the Great God Om spake unto Brutha, the Chosen One: "Psst!"

His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, "You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."
-- Dydactylos the philosopher

"He's muffed it," said Simony. "he could have done anything with them. And he just told them the facts. You can't inspire people with facts. They need a cause. They need a symbol."

"There's very good eating on one of these, you know." on Tortoises

"Not a man to mince words. People, yes. But not words." About the Inquisitor

"There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do." About the Inquisition

"When the least they could do to you was everything, then the most they could do to you suddenly held no terror."

"Bishops move diagonally. That's why they often turn up where the kings don't expect them to be."

"Go on, do Deformed Rabbit... it's my favourite." When musing about Plato's Allegory of the Cave

"The trouble with being a god is that you've got no one to pray to."

"The people who really run organizations are usually found several levels down, where it is still possible to get things done."

""What's a philosopher ?" said Brutha. "Someone who's bright enough to find a job with no heavy lifting," said a voice in his head."

"Slave is an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave," said Vorbis. "So I understand," said the Tyrant. "I imagine that fish have no word for water."

"He says gods like to see an atheist around. Gives them something to aim at."

One of my favorite excerpts: Brutha has to find a philosopher
"What do philosophers look like?" said Brutha, "When they're not having a bath, I mean." 
"They do a lot of thinking," said Om. "Look for someone with a strained expression."
"That might just mean constipation." 
"Well, so long as they're philosophical about it . . ." 
The city of Ephebe surrounded them. Dogs barked. Somewhere a cat yowled. There was that general susurration of small comfortable sounds that shows that, out there, a lot of people are living their lives.
And then a door burst open down the street and there was the cracking noise of a quite large wine amphora being broken over someone's head. A skinny old man in a toga picked himself up from the cobbles where he had landed, and glared at the doorway.  
"I'm telling you, listen, a finite intellect, right, cannot by means of comparison reach the absolute truth of things, because being by nature indivisible, truth excludes the concepts of "more" or "less" so that nothing but truth itself can be the exact measure of truth. You bastards," he said. 
Someone from inside the building said, "Oh yeah? Sez you."
The old man ignored Brutha but, with great difficulty, pulled a cobblestone loose and hefted it in his hand. Then he dived back through the doorway. There was a distant scream of rage.
"Ah. Philosophy," said Om.
Brutha peered cautiously round the door. Inside the room two groups of very nearly identical men in togas were trying to hold back two of their colleagues. It is a scene repeated a million times a day in bars around the multiverse-both would-be fighters growled and grimaced at one another and fought to escape the restraint of their friends, only of course they did not fight too hard, because there is nothing worse than actually succeeding in breaking free and suddenly finding yourself all alone in
the middle of the ring with a madman who is about to hit you between the eyes with a rock. 
"Yep," said Om, "that's philosophy, right enough."
"But they're fighting!" 
"A full and free exchange of opinions, yes." 
Now that Brutha could get a clearer view, he could see that there were one or two differences between the men. One had a shorter beard, and was very red in the face, and was waggling a finger accusingly.
"He bloody well accused me of slander!" he was shouting.
"I didn't!" shouted the other man.
"You did! You did! Tell 'em what you said!" 
"Look, I merely suggested, to indicate the nature of paradox, right, that if Xeno the Ephebian said, `All Ephebians are liars-' "
"See? See? He did it again!"
"-no, no, listen, listen . . . then, since Xeno is himself an Ephebian, this would mean that he himself is a liar and therefore-”  Xeno made a determined effort to break free, dragging four desperate fellow philosophers across the floor.
"I'm going to lay one right on you, pal!"
Brutha said, "Excuse me, please?" 
The philosophers froze. Then they turned to look at Brutha. They relaxed by degrees. There was a chorus of embarrassed coughs.
"Are you all philosophers?" said Brutha.
The one called Xeno stepped forward, adjusting the hang of his toga.
"That's right," he said. "We're philosophers. We think, therefore we am."
"Are," said the luckless paradox manufacturer automatically.
Xeno spun around. "I've just about had it up to here with you, Ibid!" he roared. He turned back to Brutha. "We are, therefore we am," he said confidently. "That's it." 
Several of the philosophers looked at one another with interest.
"That's actually quite interesting," one said. "The evidence of our existence is the fact of our existence, is that what you're saying?"
"Shut up," said Xeno, without looking around. 
"Have you been fighting?" said Brutha. 
The assembled philosophers assumed various expressions of shock and horror.
"Fighting? Us? We're philosophers," said Ibid, shocked.
"My word, yes," said Xeno.
"But you were-” Brutha began.
Xeno waved a hand.
"The cut and thrust of debate," he said. 
"Thesis plus antithesis equals hysteresis," said Ibid. "The stringent testing of the universe. The hammer of the intellect upon the anvil of fundamental truth-” 
"Shut up," said Xeno. "And what can we do for you, young man?" 
"Ask them about gods," Om prompted. 
"Uh, I want to find out about gods," said Brutha.
The philosophers looked at one another.
"Gods?" said Xeno. "We don't bother with gods. Huh. Relics of an outmoded belief system, gods."
There was a rumble of thunder from the clear evening sky.
"Except for Blind Io the Thunder God," Xeno went on, his tone hardly changing.
Lightning flashed across the sky.
"And Cubal the Fire God," said Xeno.
A gust of wind rattled the windows.
"Flatulus the God of the Winds, he's all right too," said Xeno. 
An arrow materialized out of the air and hit the table by Xeno's hand.
"Fedecks the Messenger of the Gods, one of the alltime greats," said Xeno. 
A bird appeared in the doorway. At least, it looked vaguely like a bird. It was about a foot high, black and white, with a bent beak and an expression that suggested that whatever it was it really dreaded ever happening to it had already happened.
"What's that?" said Brutha. 
"A penguin," said the voice of Om inside his head.
"Patina the Goddess of Wisdom? One of the best," said Xeno. 
The penguin croaked at him and waddled off into the darkness.
The philosophers looked very embarrassed. Then Ibid said, "Foorgol the God of Avalanches? Where's the snowline?" 
"Two hundred miles away," said someone.
They waited. Nothing happened.
"Relic of an outmoded belief system," said Xeno. 
A wall of freezing white death did not appear anywhere in Ephebe. 
"Mere unthinking personification of a natural force," said one of the philosophers, in a louder voice. They all seemed to feel a lot better about this. 
"Primitive nature worship." 
"Wouldn't give you tuppence for him." 
"Simple rationalization of the unknown."  
"Hah! A clever fiction, a bogey to frighten the weak and stupid!" 
The words rose up in Brutha. He couldn't stop himself. 
"Is it always this cold?" he said. "It seemed very chilly on my way here."
The philosophers all moved away from Xeno.
"Although if there's one thing you can say about Foorgol," said Xeno, "it's that he's a very understanding god. Likes a joke as much as the next . . . man."

"You're not one of us." "I don't think I'm one of them, either," said Brutha. "I'm one of mine."

"All holy piety in public, and all peeled grapes and self-indulgence in private."

"Take it from me, whenever you see a bunch of buggers puttering around talking about truth and beauty and the best way of attacking Ethics, you can bet your sandals it's all because dozens of other poor buggers are doing all the real work around the place."

"You can't find a hermit to teach you herming, because of course that rather spoils the whole thing."

Om began to feel the acute depression that steals over every realist in the presence of an optimist.

"All the other prophets came back with commandments!" 
"Where they get them?" 
"I ... suppose they made them up."
"You get them from the same place."

Brutha tried to nod, and thought: I'm on everyone's side. It'd be nice if, just for once, someone was on mine.

Probably the last man who knew how it worked had been tortured to death years before. Or as soon as it was installed. Killing the creator was a traditional method of patent protection.

Give anyone a lever long enough and they can change the world. It's unreliable levers that are the problem.

"Now we've got a truth to die for!" "No. Men should die for lies. But the truth is too precious to die for."

"Yes. Yes, of course." 
Death nodded. IN TIME, he said, YOU WILL LEARN THAT IT IS WRONG.

"I used to think that I was stupid, and then I met philosophers."

"I like the idea of democracy. You have to have someone everyone distrusts," said Brutha. "That way, everyone's happy."

"That's why it's always worth having a few philosophers around the place. One minute it's all Is Truth Beauty and Is Beauty Truth, and Does A Falling Tree in the Forest Make A Sound if There's No one There to Hear It, and then just when you think they're going to start dribbling one of 'em says, Incidentally, putting a thirty-foot parabolic reflector on a high place to shoot the rays of the sun at an enemy's ships would be a very interesting demonstration of optical principles."
-- The many and varied advantages of philosophy


Kitty said...

Have you read any of his other books? I find cracks that let the light in in most of them.

Dedroidify said...

Agreed! I've read around six-ish now I think and I think either the man's a saint, a magician, or a brilliant writer that is inspired straight from the heart!