I’m getting tired of writing these “a great influence on geek” has passed articles. I’m tired of writing about people lost.
We lost Terry Pratchett last week. The man behind Discworld, a person who took satire into that realm of homage and exploration, a great writer, and a great person. It’s hard to explain or honor everything he meant to people.
Me I’ve got a Pratchett story that really illustrates what he did.
I discovered the Discworld books back in the 80’s, in college. I had experienced fantasy parody before, with Myth Adventures and the Ebenezum “trilogy”, but Discworld was it’s own thing. More a parody than Myth Adventures, more respectful than a simple joke, it was something different. If anything is similar to it today, it’s The Venture Brothers and Galaxy Quest.
So of course it was funy, but it was also insightful and extremely well written. Pratchett’s books were little bundles of writing lessons on to of being damned good reads. His ability to make you laugh and think with just a few words was amazing. Such enlightening twists of language, such wit, was an influence on my own writing
(The other influences, if you must know, were Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, and Dave Barry.)
Pratchett was there with me for decades. Always amusing, always insightful, always amazing.
Now that he’s gone, we have stories.
I recently lost my stepfather, and during the viewing, during the funeral, during the dinner something kept coming back. Everyone had a great story about him, everyone. Girlfriends from back in high school, grandchildren, everyone. As soon as you got sad some story would pop up and people would have a happy memory.
His life was his own eulogy. You barely needed to tell a story as everyone already had one. Anything you could say would go from tale to tale, experience to experience, this chain of remembrance. It was a challenge to stay sad, to not laugh at a particular anecdote.
When my turn came to speak, I said little, which is rare for me. He spoke for himself.
I couldn’t add anything. His life wasn’t something to wrap up and have me stick a bow on it.
In the end, people like him, like Pratchett, like Nimoy, may produce a lot of words. They may say a lot.
Or they may say little and do a lot.
Or they may do and say a lot.
But really great people’s lives speak for themselves. They are testnmony to who they are. Their lives are not gotten through, or muddled through, they are lived. They are, simply, who they are – even if it takes them awhile to get there or admit it.
As great people leave us we wonder what to do. Who, we ask will replace them? We decry that other people are not up to the task to be their heirs. There’s nothing like a wonderful person dying to make everyone feel inadequate because we’re not like them.
And you know what, that’s fine. These great people speak for themselves, their works, their heroics, their flaws, their mistakes, speak for themselves. A good life lived as best as possible, as honestly and truly as possible, with effort (conscious or not) speaks for itself.
Everyone speaks differently.
We can’t replace anyone we lost. Lives are books, finished, put on the shelf, reread, but done. They stand alone, stand for themselves.
What we can do is live our lies so they are true to ourselves, live our lives so we truly achieve. In short live lives where, frankly, we get shit done that matters.
That’s the lesson of the people we lost, the many people we’ve lost, the ones so remembered.
Get off your ass, do what matters. Maybe it’s turning a strange role into a role model and becoming a directory, becoming an amateur historian, or writing a series of beloved books. Maybe it’s saving a million lives by helping invent a drug no one attributes to you. Maybe it’s being famous and changing the world with a word.
But go get things done. No words, no protestations on greatness or talk, just get to work. The more you talk about who you are the less time you have to be it.
We can’t replace those who lost. We can just work hard to be great so we’re as great as they are, in our own way. THen when our time comes, as it does, there will be stories left to tell and appreciate.
Then people will go live their stories. Their way. Inspired by us.
Everyone after us is our sequel.