Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter and The Problem Of Fear

so my family and i, along with a gaggle of teenagers, saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night. i have some thoughts about what this movie, as well as the novel (which is one of the best novels i've ever read, no kidding), suggests about the nature of the universe.

harry is dealing with a problem. the problem is exacerbated by, and mirrored by, his being an adolescent boy. the testosterone, hormones, and confusion of being sixteen years old are making his life hell. he also has a deep longing for support from friends and parents, or surrogate parents. he has twisted, sick surrogate parents, the dursleys, who represent selfishness in every sense. but he also has a loving community of people - the weasleys, albus dumbledore (look up what his name means - it's wonderful - "white veil-piercing bumblebee," etc.) who is the headmaster of hogwarts school, professor mcgonagall who is the head of his house at hogwarts, his godfather sirius black, those adults and students who have taken up the cause against evil, and most of all his friends hermione and ron. (the name "ronald" comes from an old european word meaning "leader's counselor"; "hermione" is the feminine of hermes, who's the messenger of the greek gods; ron and hermione fill those roles perfectly for this young warrior king; the name "harry" comes from "harold," which means "ruler.")

harry longs for connection with other people - his parents were murdered when he was a baby - but trusting other people is difficult. and so is carrying the burden of being "the chosen one," who is, like all warriors and ringbearers, ultimately alone. nevertheless, harry learns to trust and rely on this community, and in so doing becomes a leader and teacher for them.

it's a huge issue, because lord voldemort, harry's "other," his shadow self, his mirror, is a bearer of fear. voldemort rallies a community around him as well, the "death eaters," who are motivated by fear and intimidation. they are drawn to voldemort's power and teaching. but their community is based on selfishness.

further, in this story, harry has another enemy: the culture of fear, represented in the blindness and denial of the ministry of magic, a gigantic bureaucracy. the ministry sends a horrible woman to hogwarts, to enforce ministry doctrine and policies. dolores umbridge, whose name means "sorrow" and "offense." nice. umbridge and the ministry seek to undermine the freedom of hogwarts; hogwarts' job is to educate and equip wizards and witches for their lives' work. the ministry doesn't want people equipped; it wants them obedient to its control. harry and umbridge become enemies. she sees him, and his insistence that voldemort has returned and is gathering strength, as a threat to the ministry's model of the universe.

like jesus, harry gathers a group of misfits; like jesus' peole, these misfits are given the awareness and tools to live in miraculous ways, and to fight evil systems that enslave. the systems of jesus' time seek to legislate, regulate, and control, through fear and obedience to dogma. jesus, as harry does, resisted. as with jesus, the system tries to eliminate harry. suffering follows. always.

luna lovegood (a great name) tells harry that voldemort will seek to make harry feel alone - to weaken him. this is what the ministry does as well, in a campaign to discredit harry and dumbledore. community strengthens; fear divides. trust empowers; fear weakens. love and courage build; fear destroys.

this message is one of the biggest themes of this story, for me. it's the same thing jesus talks about and enacts. it's the same thing all great spiritual leaders talk about and enact. aslan in the chronicles of narnia. gandalf in the lord of the rings. dumbledore, harry's mentor.

to follow jesus requires courage. and it requires trust - in oneself, in loving community, in the power of goodness to triumph over evil. fear is the true enemy. it will kill those it can. that's all it knows how to do. voldemort isn't even alive; he lives "a half life"; harry and his misfits suffer, and some die, but all are tied to love and healing and hope, and they are fully alive, diverse, strange, funny, beautiful.

like journey. like true family. like the love that creates and gives life and possibility.

i'm in.


Twisted Christian said...

So I really really want to read your post on this subject, but I have to know if there are any spoilers. I haven't read the fifth book and won't be able to see the movie until later.

Please let me know if I should wait to read on!

Rick Diamond said...

well, my post really talks about the overall themes of the book. i do mention some of the plot, but NOTHING that "happens" - just the characters involved and what i believe they represent.
how's that.
if you read the post, you won't know what happens or how things turn out.
but it depends on how completely free of any info beforehand you want to be ...