That One I Broke up with Harry Potter and it Emotionally Messed Me Up for a While

I was battling with an inner dilemma last night in my apartment. All of my roommates were out. I really just wanted to watch anime on the big television in the living room. But there lies the problem. I enjoy watching anime. The issue is that not many people just enjoy watching anime. Either it is someone’s air, food, water, and shelter, or it isn’t. And those are the people who think the first group is weird. My fear was that you can only be in one group or the other. If I was watching anime at all then, well, there was only one alternative. While increasing polarization of society is happening, that isn’t what we’ll be looking into today. In the first Harry Potter book, Harry and Dumbledore have a conversation by the Mirror of Erised. Dumbledore tells Harry, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”. It seems that many have fallen into the trap of dreams rather than the depths of reality.

One time, sitting in her car, one of my best friends described to me her struggles with friends over the past couple of years. She’d been more detached from our circle of friends because of various extracurricular activities and found a different group to be with. As her senior year progressed, she prepared for college and started focusing more on her personal goals after high school and what she was going to do to make her dreams a reality. Her friends, not as much. Their focus was much more on the books and movies and television that made them feel something. It was the Ministry of Magic instead of the government. Percy and Annabeth instead of real life relationships. My dear friend wanted to make her dreams a reality, not have her reality be dreams.

When I was younger, I read Harry Potter constantly. It was, in a sense, a part of my necessities, if not my drug. I was enchanted by the literary magic. The fact that someone could come up with such a world was beyond me. It captured my heart and mind. I fell in love with the characters and the style and the story. Yet I fell into the trap that it (the encompassing cloud of everything) was perfect. When I got older and had a greater presence on the internet, my world began to shatter. I had never really considered politics to be part of Harry Potter (or fiction in general). I was truly shocked. My idol, JK Rowling, wasn’t standing up for her work. She was just kind of going along with whatever in my eyes. That broke my heart. In that time, magic was dead, reanimated with the whims of the world. I had also subconsciously divorced myself from literature. I didn’t read for pleasure anymore. I was happy when I was forced to read for school, even though I didn’t realize why at the time. I still loved reading. I just hadn’t gotten over the split between me and “Harry’s Wondrous World”. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year that I truly started to come back to that abandoned love of mine.

I had the opportunity to take a Lord of the Rings class the third trimester of that year. It is one of the only of its kind in the nation. The way that the class was set up made it so that the focus was much less on the actual reading (which my A in the class without reading the entire series can attest to), and much more on the themes and messages of the series. One of the first assignments that we did in the class was to write an essay on our personal “ring” and who was in our “fellowship” in this particular journey of our lives. I didn’t turn in the paper on time. I thought about it for weeks and worked on it. By the time I was finished, I wrote twice that was required of me. And it meant something. The class continued to be taught in this fashion. We applied what we were learning to our lives. There were times where I wished it was a class called “Lord of the Rings and Christianity” where I could talk more explicitly about my personal beliefs. However, it was one of the most spiritually and emotionally uplifting classes I had ever experienced during my public education. It was in that class that I was reminded that fiction is meant to be an aide to our reality, not reality itself.

That is when my world changed.

That June for my birthday I ended up with four books: The Four Loves by CS Lewis, Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and The Second Treatise of Government by John Locke. The Treatise was for reference for debate and I haven’t read it in full. I had also read Howl’s Moving Castle sometime ago (it was one of my sister’s favorite book). These were the books to the start of my recovery. CS Lewis is a theme of my senior year. His logic-with-faith approach to religion drew me in. The not-so-subtle allegory of The Chronicles of Narnia reinforced the idea that literature can and is an effective tool for life. I may have gotten a little obsessed, but it was with something that was very real. One of my friends also had an affinity for Lewis. The discussions we were able to have expanded my world and helped me to understand what I believed better. The humor in Howl’s Moving Castle still makes me laugh and know it’s okay to have a good time. As I get closer and closer to finishing The Lord of the Rings (it’s been a tough run), I continue to see that, even with my flaws, I am able to help accomplish incredible things.

In Camelot, King Arthur says, “We must not let our passions destroy our dreams”. Rather, we should make sure our passions help to achieve them.

~Ali

Thank Goodness Teenage Girls Don’t Write Speeches for the President of the United States 

I know plenty of women who can write, Helen. I know women who can blow the walls of brick buildings. This sounds like a girl.” -Sam Seaborn

At times it is hard to imagine a liberal today daring to say something that could be so easily misinterpreted. What was a simple distinction made in the early 2000’s is a war cry today. Our society doesn’t frown upon a toddler who isn’t making her family dinner. Yet by no means does this suggest she can’t. The one thing that this line really boils down to is this: Progress.

Not the progress of nations. Not the progress of political ideology. It is the progress you see in children from the time they are born to the age of six. Then the same thing again from twelve to eighteen. The mental, physical, and emotional developments that are seen during these stages of life make me wonder why anybody says that “people can’t change”.

This concept of progress is also seen in math. Children are taught how to count, then given meaning to numbers. They are asked to grasp something that is infinitely definite and they do. One can be one grain of sand, one feather, one ton of bricks, but it is all one. By giving meaning to one concept, a foundation is built on which the world can stand. Not much later after that, arrays are made with M&M’s and Goldfish crackers. Multiplication is learned. We can see that it works.  So we accept that and move on. There is a progression to algebra, geometry, and maybe even calculus. A learner can amount to whatever they want to. The amount of progression in anything is a choice.

This begs the question of “what if you just can’t”. People struggle with math, or reading, or [Insert Here] all of the time. What’s up with that? The easiest way of explaining is there is a gap in the staircase of progression. You find this a lot in public education. A student can often be pulled up to the next step without fully understanding a concept. This can get someone through a lesson, unit, or even entire courses. However, there can become a point where a new concept requires an old one (or several old concepts) are used that were never learned. This can cause the next step to be so high for the student that they can neither climb up it themselves or be pulled up. Often, it is at that point that people accept defeat. So, how exactly do we overcome?

CS Lewis best explains it when attempting to achieve our final destination in life. In the preface of “The Great Divorce”, Lewis describes life as a tree, starting at one point then branching outwards. One branch is taken, then another, and another. Making just one wrong turn can prevent us from getting to our destination. But we can always go back. That is hard.  Not everyone can do it, and some can hardly bear to think about it. Yet using this analogy, it is seen that sometimes the quickest way forward and to progression is to actually go backwards. It is vital to recognize when the basics are needed again.

Recognition of shortcomings is the key to an unshakable foundation and the greatest potential. When a firm foundation is created, the next step is to build a beautiful masterpiece. Before commencing is the time to check the foundation. But if the foundation does crack and the building is destroyed, there is no reason not to start again. It can be easy to be satisfied with a house, but the land around it is capable of so much more. As a foundation can grow into a house, a house can grow into an estate. The greatest amount is achieved in life by realizing that now leads to later and there is always something to contribute.

In the West Wing episode “The Fall’s Gonna Kill You”, Sam Seaborn meets with the Progressive Caucus  to discuss a line the caucus wants in one of President Bartlet’s speeches. Sam refuses to use the line and the following dialogue occurs:

SAM
First of all, it’s bad writing.

HENRY
What’s wrong with it?

SAM
It sounds like it was written by a high school girl.

HELEN
Is there something wrong with the way a woman writes?

SAM
There usually is when she’s in high school.

It was never about being a woman. That’s the thing that a lot of people miss these days. It was a statement of progress that happened to have a female as the subject. Everyone is at different stages of progression, but it isn’t a measure of what the end result will be. Rome fell and children who weren’t supposed to live longer than twelve hours have grown to adulthood. There is a time and place for most everything, yet there is a want and an expectation for good leaders to present an estate, not a foundation. Misplaced, heavy expectation does indeed break a perfectly good foundation. It passed by for the moment, for a different time or a different purpose. And there is no shame in that. Remember the reality of now. There is much more that can be accomplished in life than a high school research paper. So, thank goodness teenage girls don’t write speeches for the President of the United States.

~Ali