MAGICAL TRUTHS IN THE MUGGLE WORLD
I like the Harry Potter movies but I am definitely a book guy. I read them regularly and cannot get enough of how it can describe in countless details a fictional world of majesty but also the way it can move me with a character quote. The list I’m giving today will not contain some of the more famous Harry Potter phrases like “Always” from Snape or all those beautiful and inspirational things Dumbledore said, mainly to Harry, about dreams and living and death and choices. Those things make the books great, but they also fit better into how I enjoy HP as a fictional world. The quotes below do something different. They make me pause and think about how I live outside of the times where I am so engrossed in a fantasy that I forget where I am or what I need to do later that day. They jerk me back into reality and ultimately change how I think and treat people. Whether intentional or not, they contain what I consider to be truth. Which is not just understanding something, but applying it. There are many of these, but I think these five rise to the top:
1. “Dobby has heard of your greatness, sir, but of your goodness Dobby never knew.”(Dobby to Harry, The Chamber of Secrets)
Dobby, in all his house elf humility, gives a profound and well worded compliment to Harry that speaks to the difference between success and character. It’s the difference in how people react to me and how I react to them. Honestly, it makes me think of a professor I had while in college, Dr. Robert Picirilli. He was more intelligent than anyone I’d ever met and his lectures and books are potent results of deep theological study. He’s probably the most famous person in the Free Will Baptist denomination. Yet, when I have contacted him for help in understanding the Bible, he has always replied with graciousness and detail even though I am not close to him or anyone special. Dr. Pic is a great man, but Dobby would also say he is a good man. If I can never be the first, I can always be the second.
2. “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” (Sirius Black, The Goblet of Fire)
A person who is truly part of the Christian faith should never, ever think anyone else is beneath him or her. However, there is no doubt that our culture creates societal levels and it can be easy to think in those terms. We often think a person is “higher” in society based on how much money they make or how much education they have or how many people are under their authority. With Christ as my example in associating with the poor and disenfranchised, I think there is significant truth behind what Sirius says here. In some sense I should be measured by how I treat my ESL students more than how I treat my best friends. Because right action reflects right thinking. No one is below me in God’s eyes. He exalts the humble and humbles the proud, and tells me to see Jesus in how I treat the lowest in society.
3. “The World isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” (Sirius Black, explaining Dolores Umbridge, The Order of the Phoenix)
This is not an article to start a debate. I am not here to pontificate on political issues. But I cannot lie; this comment makes me think about Syrian refugees, Islam, immigration in general and a whole host of other problems the U.S. faces. While there are battle lines and social media wars, I think a lot of people like me struggle with where to land on some issues because we know the above to be true. We know there are people who want to do real damage to others. We also know there are people in real need who only want to be safe and productive in society. But there is a lot in the middle. Most of life is not lived or understood in extremes. So we do well not to categorize people too simply. For the record, even though Sirius makes a good point here, Umbridge was as foul as any Death Eater to me. And I want to punch her in the face.
4. “Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike….We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward.” (Albus Dumbledore, The Order of the Phoenix)
For years I have considered that ignoring a person is as bad, and likely worse, than insulting them. If I’m walking down the street and I see someone I know, I think I’d rather them say, “That haircut is terrible” to me than to look at me, say nothing and keep walking. And one thing I see so clearly in divisions around me is plain indifference and neglect. We segregate neighborhoods and churches and peer groups based on what we prefer in others. Harry Potter is a world filled with creatures and beings that make an exaggerated point about the kinds of people that make up the world. We don’t have goblins and house elves but we treat other people groups as if they were.
5. “He must have known I’d run out on you.”
“No, he must have known you’d want to come back.” (Ron and Harry, The Deathly Hallows)
I love The Deathly Hallows because it is so dark and raw and real. When Ron leaves the trio out of anger and bitterness, that rings of real life when people are in the worst circumstances. And I love this exchange because it speaks poignantly about repentance. Life is messy. People are apt to say and do things they can and should regret, especially to those whom they love the most. But in my Christian worldview, I have to embrace and teach reconciliation, which involves genuine sorrow and coming back by the offender, and a forgiving spirit by the offended. That is why the above exchange speaks to me. Dumbledore gave Ron the deluminator to give him the chance to change his mind and amend a great degree his failure. And it also gave Harry (and more slowly, Hermione) the chance to forgive and put it behind them to move forward with an important goal. Not much more is needed in my world than this truth.