Ok, so the title of this post is cryptic unless you’re a Terry Pratchet fan (I’m a die hard). It’s from his newest book, called “Snuff”. A brief summary: the infamous Commander Samuel Vimes, also now Duke of Ankh (after marrying Lady Sybil Ramkin, a badass, dragon breeding, all around supportive wife who also makes sure Sam’s consumption of bacon sandwiches is severely limited) and also Hero of Koom Valley, Friend of the Low King and the Diamond King of Trolls, suspicious but tolerant of just about every other race in Discworld, including but not limited to Golems, Wizards, Gnomes, Nac Mac Feagles aka the Wee Free Men, Vampires (cautiously), and Werewolves. He has the reputation of being incorruptible and once arrested the city’s inscrutable and unassailable leader Patrician Lord Ventinari for treason. In short, his reputation with the people (at least those who follow the law) is unassailable. His reputation with his wife’s circle of “nobs” is a little strained, although she generally supports his denial of the titles and respect that come with her family’s wealth and status. After all, she’d always been a bit eccentric herself. “Nobby” people have that right. So this book, “Snuff” is about a trip Vimes and his wife and their six year old son, young Sam take to her family’s country estate. The first vacation he has taken, possibly ever.
But somehow, crime, slavery, and the question once again appears – what is the difference between a person and an animal?
Goblins, the most dejected and undervalued race on Discworld feature heavily. Vimes, who has always despised them, as most of humanity, finds himself face to face with a goblin girl who can play the harp like an angel, and whose name is “Tears of the Mushroom”. The goblin language is so complex that for a human to learn it would be impossible unless raised by goblins. And fortunately on the Ramkin estate, there is just such a woman, whose mother was raised in goblin cave till humans kidnapped her and beat the goblin out of her by force. But she taught her daughter. And her daughter has begun to try to help the goblins see that the world’s opinion of them, in fact, their own opinion of themselves, is not fact. Even the goblins believe that in the past the must have done something very, very bad (who knows what it was) and thus deserve the suffering and derision the are dealt.
But Vimes, helped by the Summoning Dark (an ancient substition which, according to Pratchet is the opposite of a superstition. in other words, a substition exists whether you believe in it or not) and a whole host of deeply interesting characters, tracks down the murderer of a goblin girl, destroys a ring of slavers carting goblins off to tobacco plantations for hard labor against their will, and single handedly changes some of the stigma against a long maligned and misunderstood race of people, who are, indeed, not animals at all.
Ok. Sorry for the book review. The title of the post comes from a hilarious satirization of Chinese martial art names translated into English. You see, during the course of his investigation, the local authorities (namely one Chief Constable Feeney, a youth of barely 18 who has never handled much more than pigs) are prevailed upon to arrest Vimes. And to his surprise, Feeney knocks him cold in one single hit to the chest. He calls the move “Big Man Up Down He Very Sorry”.
It not only struck me as funny, but also got me thinking about what happens when we underestimate our opponents, or worse, when we don’t recognize them as opponents at all.
Now, outside of my martial arts classes, I don’t do much fighting, and hope never to have to. But the battle within myself is something that I believe I will fight till I die.
My own mind can be my enemy. There is a part of me that, like the Summoning Dark within Vimes, which plays on his rage against those who would harm others and constantly incites him to violence…there is part of the Summoning Dark inside me too. Inside us all, I think.
What is important is to remember that there is also what Pratchet calls the Watching Dark. When Vimes nearly succumbs to the Summoning Dark’s influence and is standing over a helpless enemy with a sword raised, ready to deal his own justice, it is the Watching Dark that pulls him back from the edge. And it is the Watching dark that tempers the Summoning Dark inside him in the future.
I won’t generalize, because in this case it might offend one or two of you. But I know that there is a part, maybe even a large part that is evil. It is darkness personified. It is the Summoning Dark, that actually calls itself out, it needs no invitation. When I let it take over, I become something that is not me.
I become devious and manipulative. I become selfish. I become angry, even furious. I am defensive, and violently so. I might not lash out with fists, but my words become targeted barbs that dig deep into even the hardest heart.
But that is not who I am. I am Nathan Howells. And this second iteration of my Wellness Quest is partially about me learning to temper that darkness within me, to turn it aside to produce, to create. Because despite it’s possible destructiveness, the Summoning Dark does not just want to destroy. It does indeed want justice and creation. It just wants its own way, all the time.
If I can learn to control that force within me and to turn it to positive use, I believe I will succeed in places I have often failed miserably.
Hope you enjoyed this, and apologize about all the Terry Pratchet references.
The analogy seemed to fit, so I went with it.
Peace to you all,
- That’s not my cow… (storypockets.carnegielibrary.org)
- Discworld: Ankh-Morpork Review (godisageek.com)
- Book 49/50 Night Watch (likhaavat.blogspot.com)
- DiscWorld Series on the Horizon for 2013 by R. Johnson (pinkbananaworld.com)