Terry Pratchett is dead. Here's a wonderful question about surprise which embodies his genius

Terry Pratchett© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia CommonsTerry Pratchett’s famous beard and hat.

Beloved fantasy author Terry Pratchett died Thursday after a battle with Alzheimer’s — which he liked to call not a disease, but “The Embuggerance.”

Pratchett set his poignant satires in a whimsical land known as “Discworld,” a flat planet resting on the backs of four giant elephants, which, in turn, stood on the back of a giant turtle, floating through the universe.

In my favourite of his solo novels, “Thief of Time,” the auditors of the universe, growing increasingly exasperated with the silly behaviours of humans, decide to imprison Time (the person), which will freeze time (the concept).

At one point, Pratchett reveals the backstory of Time’s husband, Wen the Eternally Surprised, the founder of a group of characters known as the History Monks.

When people first hear of Wen, they usually ask a question. Pratchett’s answer taught me a crucial lesson about life and reveals his greatness as an author and simply a person.

From “Thief of Time:”

“The first question they ask is: ‘Why was he eternally surprised?’

And they are told: ‘Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, recreated anew. Therefore, he understood, there is in truth no past, only a memory of the past. Blink our eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of mind is surprise. The only state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.’

Even Wen’s name is a genius pun. In Mandarin, the character “Wen” combines with others to mean different variations of the word “culture.” In English, however, his name sounds like “when” — a word Pratchett cleverly pairs with “eternally surprised.”

Rest in peace, Sir Pratchett. Your humour, creativity, and wisdom will be greatly missed.

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