In Blackest Night – Be More Terry
Like many, I watched ‘Terry Pratchett: Back in Black“. Well, I’m now on my third viewing. I was very much looking forward to this and I wasn’t disappointed. Like the man himself, the documentary doesn’t follow the conventional documentary. With Paul Kaye as Terry Pratchett the narration, as such, is not like the usual voice-over work we have become accustomed to. It is acted out by Paul, in proper Pratchett-esque regalia.
The show practically had me in tears less than five minutes in. Like his work over the past forty years or so, it is a reflection of the human condition. This is why it is so relatable. The familiarity with Death and the ability of human beings to find ‘bother’, in their short span of their lives.
I haven’t read much of Pratchettt‘s work–not because I dislike it, on the contrary, I love ‘Good Omens‘ as well as ‘The Colour of Magic‘ and ‘The Light Fantastic‘. I remember my brother’s book collection and how he would always get the latest Discworld book upon release. I was fascinated by the book covers – the unusual but brilliant artwork. But I wouldn’t read them in fear of ruining the books and also feeling like I was too young for them.
How I wish I had read his work sooner. As I’ve mentioned before, I struggle to read books now because I just can’t focus on what I ought to be digesting. I’ve never really been able to articulate exactly how this manifests but, thanks to Terry, I have a means to describe it. For a very verbose man, his inability to write and to find the right words or to be able to say what he wants struck a chord with me because that’s how I seem myself at times. Struggling to communicate and to express my thoughts because of some invisible barrier is probably one of the worst inabilities I can think of. Or, as he put it, ‘This shadow keeps falling across the page.’
For a long time, I have feared the eventuality of Alzheimer’s because of the historical family presence it has had and, because I was young and naive when I saw it first-hand, I truly understand the devastating effects and toll it can take. I’m aware of certain failings I have that I believe to be related to dementia. I haven’t been diagnosed and, to be honest, I’m afraid to even speak about it to a professional because once it has a name it also comes with the stigma and the ticking clock that officially counts down (although the clock is always ticking, there’s a finality to something when it’s made official).
I play it down as a bad memory and, while it is in essence, there is more to it. The anger at myself which is construed as aggression unto others; the feeling that words can’t truly describe and that I can only describe as going to a location that you know for a fact something should be there and find it’s not and the feeling of despair you experience when wracking your brain as to where it might be.
It’s a horrifying feeling that I think is captured well in Terry‘s ‘Living With Alzheimer’s‘ two-part documentary as well as in ‘Back in Black‘. His story is that of inspiration and determination–subsequent to his diagnosis, his work never faltered and he maintained the quality and presence he was renowned for. He adapted to his situation: his inability to type led him to dictate via talk to type and continue his Discworld series–a magnum opus consisting of forty-one books.
So how does one ‘be more Terry’? Is it to battle on against insurmountable odds? Is it to prove others wrong based on their perceptions and prejudices? Is it to stay true to yourself and your body of work, whatever it may be, and continue your legacy? Is it to find the humorous side to everything, even Death, and turn any ‘bother’ into something worth bothering about? I suppose it could be any combination or all of the above and then some because there are so many facets to life (and Death) that there are plenty of things to allow us to ‘be more Terry’ whilst being a bit more ‘us’ to boot.
It’s certainly changed my perception of things, if even for just a moment. Where his antagonists were teachers and critics alike, mine are myself. But even if I could ‘be [a little] more Terry’ then that’s better than nothing, right?
‘No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…’ – “Reaper Man”
‘Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you will be missed.
–”There Is No Indispensable Man” – Saxon N. White Kessinger
What were your thoughts of ‘Back In Black‘? Please feel free to share below or even any stories of the man himself, if you were lucky enough to meet him.