When my daughter was four, she flat-out asked if Santa was made up. And of course, being me, I told her the truth.
We all know the basic arguments both for and against teaching your child to believe in a morbidly obese chimney burglar from the Arctic. Each boils down to whether or not you feel Belief itself is a good thing. And I’ve always tended to side with the rational over the irrational.
But then I ran into this piece of dialogue in a book by Terry Pratchett, that makes a solid case for teaching your child to believe in St. Nick, or in the world he was writing about, the “Hogfather”. The voice in all caps, belongs to Death himself:
All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand -AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY
Draw your own conclusions, but either way, that’s a brilliant piece of writing.
Merry Christmas you guys; wherever you are, however you celebrate it.