Awareness

I finished “reading” (even after a year, it still seems strange to call it “reading” when I’m actually listening to the book on audio) Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men for the second time. I really wish that Harper Audio would get around and put more of Pratchett’s books on audio. The man’s writing is absolutely incredible.

Personally, what amazes me about this book is the almost fairy tale “tone” to it. I don’t remember quite the same tone in Small Gods (which I read the “old fashioned way”) or Monstrous Regiment. Indeed, it makes me wonder if the man has a wide range of writing styles and “tones” at his disposal. Considering the number of books that he’s written, I can’t say as that would surprise me.

It’s easy to get lost in this particular book, in my opinion. The Pictsies and young Tiffany are such great characters. They grow on you, and in a good way. And the interraction between them is absolutely incredible. When you look at the way that the Pictsies appraoch which suggests that a good head butt to be a proper and effective resolution to any problem to Tiffany’s incredible tendency to over-intellectualize and analyze every little detail — especially for a nine year old girl — you end up with a curious interplay between them. It makes for a humorous part of the story.

And just for fun, Pratchett seems to like to throw in some legitimate spirituality. I find myself almost wondering if he does it just to see if anyone notices. For example, when Tiffany and the Queen have their final confrontation, Tiffany “wakes up.” Pratchett describes the effects of this awakening as being a sort of hyper-awareness. Every scent, every sound, every pattern becomes blindingly clear to to Tiffany. And in this sense of awareness, Tiffany is able to both defeat the Queen and realize that she has to “go back to sleep.” During this time, she acknowledges that no one could maintain this state of hyper-awareness indefinitely. She comments to herself that it would prevent them from getting anything done. To paraphrase her, “you could spend all day studying a rose, but the cheese would go unmade.”

It seems to me that there is a real truth that applies to witchcraft in this. Witches seek a sort of heightened awareness, themselves. In her book, Witchcraft: Theory and Practice, De Angeles suggests an exercise that requires one to go about their routine for an hour each day taking note of as many details around them as they can, to become “fully aware” of everything. As part of this excercise, she also recommends sitting down sometime after the hour and writing down everything your mind recorded during the exercise. The idea behind doing this for a number of days is that it will stretch your awareness, enabling you to note more and more details.

But, as Tiffany says, this has to serve more purpose than creating a situation in which “we spend all day studying a rose and allow the cheese to go unmade.” After all, witches are (in theory, at least) a practical bunch. So what is the purpose of such an exercise?

It seems to me that the point of becoming “more aware” is so that we can better control what it is we’re aware of in the first place. By “waking up” — to use Pratchett’s term — we give ourselves a chance to “go back to sleep,” but to control how we “sleep.” We have a greater control of what we’re aware of. We’re more able to filter out those details that are unimportant while not missing the ones that are — even if they are rather subtle.

And perhaps the other part of this exercise is just to make sure we do realize we’re “asleep.” Perhaps a large part of this exercise is to bring us to the point that we understand that no matter how “aware” we think we are, there are still those little details, those subtle nuances, that slip past us without notice. Perhaps this is to help keep us humble and to remind us to question our “facts” on a situation from time to time.

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