Study Guide

Nation Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Terry Pratchett

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

"I could see you thinking. Not many people think, not really think." (2.114)

These are some of the wise words Granddad Nawi has for Mau. Keep in mind, this man believes that he will become a dolphin when he dies. If he were still alive, would he encourage Mau's to really think about that belief?

"Life is a trick, and you get one chance to learn it." (2.130)

Another great Nawi-ism. Life is a good trick, in that even if you do figure out how it works (and if you do, let us know, okay? Thanks.), it doesn't lose its magic.

I recall no arrangement, Mau, no bargain, covenant, or promise. There is what happens, and what does not happen. There is no should. (3.134)

These slithery words are from Locaha, the god of death. Basically, he's saying that everyone dies—but he sounds a little bit Yoda here. Yoda with a scythe.

Sheep can't pronounce their bs but people go on saying [baaa] because they don't listen properly. (5.22)

Daphne makes a good point here. We've never heard a pig go "oink" either. It's more like "urahgagheagh." Oh, but the real point? People are sheep. And they're not even very good at being sheep.

A good shouting at somebody always makes you feel better and in control, especially if you aren't. (6.6)

Daphne feels much better after yelling at Mau, and he's man enough not to take it personally. We don't recommend trying this at a TSA checkpoint, though, because you'll learn pretty quickly who's really in charge.

People need time to deal with the now before it runs away and becomes the then. And what they need most of all is nothing much happening. (6.51)

This is a fancy way of saying "time heals all wounds." Of course, if you're running for your life or buried alive or something else horrible during that time, it's probably going to do more harm than good.

It's a funny saying, "broaden your horizons." I mean, there's just the horizon, which moves away from you. [...] Maybe you moved, you changed. (6.53-6.54)

Daphne's father liked to tell her to broaden her horizons. What does it even mean? There are a lot of sayings that don't make any sense. A stitch in time saves nine? Huh? A stitch in time doesn't keep our buttons from popping off, that's for sure. (Okay, that one actually does make sense.) The point here is that your horizon looks different from where you're standing.

When people are not sure what you are, they don't know what you might do. (7.16)

Some people fear Mau because they think he might be a demon. This works in his favor, because most of the time, they do what he says. People have an inherent need to label things, whether they call a chief a "demon boy;" a coincidence, a miracle, or science, "magic." Defy labels and you defy expectations.

Sometimes the world ought to be better organized. (9.31)

Daphne laments that the annoying parrot always shows up at the least opportune moments. Life isn't a scripted TV show. It isn't even reality TV. If it were, who would do the scripting, and what if you didn't like the lines you were given?

Life gets really complicated if you think too much. (15.312)

Sure, but we'll just say this: it gets really boring if you don't.