Category Archives: Harry Potter

The Thankscraziness Post.

I was going to put off all further blogging until Dec., when National Novel Writing Month will be over, but I find myself ruthlessly procrastinating today anyway, so I may as well be procrasti-writing.

First, a sincere and heartfelt thank-you to those of you who expressed sadness or frustration that the blog fell asleep for so long. I’m touched. Really. Thank you for reading.

Second, here’s some of the stuff I’ve been up to in the meantime:

1. Ahem. I wrote a little play. It’s called Her Story in Blood, and it revisits and reimagines the story from the synoptic gospels of the woman who bled for 12 years. You are more than welcome to read it while you are waiting for the next blog post. And, you know, pass it around to your friends and plaster it over social media and let me know if you know anyone who wants to stage it. 😉  [BONUS: You get to see who I really am! With my real name and everything! Well, my professional pen name anyway. More professional than “Fairy Bear.”]

2. It’s National Novel Writing Month! And I have a little over 5,000 words to WIN! So I am seriously going to be buckling down and writing for real. Write* after I finish procrasti-writing this post.

*I was going to go back and edit that last sentence to read “Right” at the beginning, but I decided to leave it. That’s where my brain is. That’s where it should stay.

3. I finished shooting a short film with a friend! I have a few still shots, but I don’t think I’m allowed to show them to you yet.

4. I started teaching again! And I also have made peace with it. More or less. I think. We’re starting with a fun social studies unit, anyway, in which I get to bring in my friend’s TARDIS and take the kids time-traveling to ancient Greece. Yes, I brought togas. (Properly, peplos, as togas were Roman, but essentially they’re togas.)

5. Traveling! I went to visit my sister for a week in Florida to help her pack up her apartment. And also to help me say goodbye to the apartment, which really was heavenly. Two words: Rooftop pool. Okay, two more words: Harbor views. She will very happily be staying with me for much of December, so I don’t have to say goodbye to her just yet, but leaving the apartment was hard. Even though it wasn’t actually mine. Not gonna lie.

PS – I took some photos of the amazing sunrises I got to see in Florida. They’re posted on my Instagram. Which is named after my professional pen name. Which you can find if you link to my play. Hint.

Then of course there’s been all the regular life stuff. Like grocery shopping, burning eggs to rubber because my brain starts to atrophy with boredom when I cook, mulling endlessly over emotional obstacles because I’m *that* kind of person, and getting a paper cut that made my whole hand swell up. I am also slated to visit with three families this weekend – my nieces, my hubby’s family, and my best friend’s family.

All that together in a 30-day month makes this a Thankscrazy season! And I am crazy thankful, emotional obstacles not withstanding. Here are a few things I’m thankful for this month:

1. My patient and dedicated hubby.

2. 8 perfect St. Pete sunrises.

3. Being able to quote the entirety of whole 80’s and 90’s movies with my family.

4. Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Lattes.

5. The dedicated and fabulous early-morning crew at my favorite Starbucks, who are ludicrously cheerful and efficient at 6:30am.

6. Hubby driving me to work in the mornings.

7. If I have to teach, at least I get to do cool stuff. Like travel in a TARDIS.

8. Heat. Especially on days like this.

9. Enough money that I can eat breakfast at Starbucks if I choose instead of burning eggs.

10. This wonderful computer.

11. Scrivener software. Seriously, where have you BEEN all my life?

12. Wine and beer.

13. This song. For real. I can’t stop watching this.:

14. My mom, who is awesome.

15. Pottermore, even though I’m suddenly spending waaaaaay too much time on it. So much so that I’m embarrassed to tell you how high my dueling score is after a mere week of practice. (Ravenclaw in da house!). Still. There’s something kind of meditative about the dueling format – it forces me to be totally in the moment. I find it very calming.

16. My spiritual community. Especially Transmission, and my two book clubs, and my writer’s group(s).

17. All the pep talks from NaNoWriMo people who keep me writing this novel down. And the ones from my sister. And my hubby.

18. The opportunity to catch up with my brother and talk business and marketing and all kinds of other things not normally related to my day-to-day.

19. A perfect Sabbath this past Saturday, which included the 50th Anniversary global simul-cast Doctor Who special.

20. The Whodle created by Google for the occasion. 🙂  I can’t find a working one archived anywhere (please let me know if you know where to find it!), but here’s a most impressive round by someone who was definitely not me:

21. Nerdy friends with whom to bond over things like Doctor Who and Pottermore.

22. Twitter. I love Twitter. Who knew?

23. Wine and beer.

24. Yoga. Hot yoga. Vinyasa yoga. Ashtanga yoga.

25. All the books who walk with me through my life, keeping me company and carrying hope. A Secret Garden. A Little Princess. Heidi. Harry Potter. Narnia.

26. New books that offer me hope. Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Also Occupy Spirituality, by Adam Bucko and Matthew Fox, which I was supposed to review on this very blog probaby weeks ago, but I keep crying every time I pick it up, so it’s slow going. Crying in a good way. It’s very beautiful to me.

27. The opportunity to see my nieces in two days.

28. Being cozy on a rainy November night like tonight.

29. My facebook community. Seriously. I love Facebook. I don’t think it replaces face time in pure quality, but it’s wonderful for keeping in touch with people who are very far away, especially for someone like me who is even worse at letter-writing than at cooking.

30. You, dear readers. I know, I’m getting squeamish at how that sounds too, but really, if you read this, I’m thankful for you, because you remind that I’m not alone, and that perhaps my many words are not completely wasted. Cheers.

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Harry Potter Apologist (Part 3)

The last part of my “Apologetics” for giving respect to the Potter world. Addressed to secular critics.

Regarding the “lightweight” quality of the HP books: I find more and more these days that books that are written for adults tend to paint a very dreary portrait of reality. As if being an adult means that all my fiction must dwell in gritty “realism” where everything is bad and getting worse, all the heroes are corrupt, and there are no happy, or even hopeful, endings. In real life, of course things are bad. Science says the earth is in crisis and it’s our fault, wars are rampant, corporations are greedy, racism still lives, our educational system is awful, our politicians lie, even our media lies now, and the list goes on. I don’t go to fiction to find out how bad things can get. At least not all the time. I go to fiction to enlarge my soul, to help me imagine what can be possible, to imagine myself in another’s shoes, to rediscover hope. Harry Potter’s journey from awkward orphan to power-wielder to ultimate sacrifice-er is a classic hero’s journey. We need more heroes. We need more people to imagine themselves as heroes. I won’t insist that “Harry Potter” is great literature, but I do find it refreshingly joyful, celebratory, and hopeful at its core.

Also, Rowling is a gifted satirist.

Also, I just like it, ok?

For people who just don’t get sci-fi/fantasy – I personally think it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy exploring the imaginary worlds in someone else’s mind, and discovering their values and heart in that way.

I also find sci-fi/fantasy work can be a good platform for examining ethical questions. For example – if you have been given more power over another being, through magic, technology, wealth, etc., how do you use it? What are your responsibilities to those less able to help themselves? And what are the consequences if you fail in these responsibilities? What happens when you divorce reason from emotion? Is revenge ever justified? Sci-fi/fantasy worlds give us a way to play with these questions without immediately igniting the fire of dispute, because the characters populating these stories are at all times everyone and no one. We can identify with their plights without having to identify with their politics. We can watch them explore these questions, make choices, earn consequences, and make mistakes while remaining relatively neutral (unless it’s really bad, bombastic stuff, which is terrible in any genre).  It’s a way of experimenting with these questions in a non-volatile, playful way. In a world as rapidly changing as this, we need ethical and philosophical playtime like never before in order to find our bearings.

If you already get all this and you  just don’t like sci-fi/fantasy, I doubt anything I say will persuade you, and that’s ok. Different strokes for different folks 🙂

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Things I Love About Harry Potter, in No Particular Order. (#1)

When I was young, one of my sisters and I used to role-play a game we called “Adoption.” It’s name is fairly self-explanatory. One of us would be the downtrodden, lonely orphan pitted against a cruel world, and the other would play the wealthy, loving adult who would claim the orphan as family, with the full benefits thereof.

I confess that as an 11-year-old, the prospect of unlimited toys may have been the main draw of the fantasy, but I also find it telling that we never simply played “Lottery.” It was never purely about acquisitiveness. It was about belonging, being wanted, being chosen, being found, and being found worthy. It was less about having the stuff than it was about having someone who delighted in sharing the stuff with us.

I can see why I liked this game. Living in a “broken” home, raised on thrift store clothing in a town where the mark of an important person was their Guess jeans, a role-play about suddenly being delivered the motherload of family, security, prestige, and love filled a powerful psychic need for hope.

The trope of our “Adoption” story certainly isn’t new. It appears, of course, in Annie, in A Little Princess, in Oliver Twist, in the New Testament in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (and, of course, in the whole arc of the story of G-d adopting us as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ), and the Old Testament in several instances, especially in Hosea. And, of course, in Harry Potter.

That scene in the first book where Hagrid comes to tell Harry he’s a wizard is like an 11-year-old boy’s Cinderella story. Overnight, Harry goes from ignored, abused, and in-the-way to sought-after, wanted, loved (and kinda rich, as it happens). I’ve read the books through several times now, and I still choke up when Hagrid pulls out Harry’s first-ever birthday cake, kind of squashy and obviously homemade. I get all teary-eyed every time Molly Weasley fusses over him like one of her own. I practically cheer when Sirius almost blushingly asks if Harry might want to live with him as his godson.

All these moments say to Harry “I’m glad you’re here. I want to be with you. I’m happy to have you in my life. I think your life is important. Your life has dignity. I’m concerned with your safety, your happiness. You belong with us. You are welcome here.” I’m 32 years old, and even now, I need so much to hear these things myself that I’m drawn back to these moments again and again so that I can see it happening to Harry. So that I can believe it can happen. So I can renew my hope.

It’s not that my family and friends suck. They love me, and I’m grateful to them. We’re all doing our best. But life is just so much more complicated than fiction, sometimes I need a turbo-boost of hope to get through a rough patch. There’s something about identifying with Harry that jump-starts the hope center in my brain.

As a Christian, I sometimes feel that I “should” always get my hope from a Bible story. Bible stories are hard though – archaic, complex, hard to chew on and harder to digest. Harry Potter is like Hope Candy. I laugh, I cry, I cheer for the good guys, and when I’m done I’ve found courage to try again. I can’t claim that Harry Potter is Great Literature, but the world can always use another influx of hope. Viva la Harry Potter! 🙂

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Harry Potter Apologist (Part 2: Love, not Magic)

Rather than accusing Rowling of occultism, I’m surprised the Christian world hasn’t attacked her for being too secular.

The only spirits that make any mention in the books at all are the ghosts who haunt the school, and no one acquires any power from them, worships them, or gets anything out of them besides, occasionally, information. They are drawn, rather, as echoes of rather sad people, who were not brave enough to risk the transition to the afterlife (which is acknowledged but drawn in very generic terms). Most of them are comical. They have virtually no influence on the living world one way or another.

So Ms. Rowling’s world is not drawn as a world where invisible beings influence the earth for good or evil, as both Christians and many occultists believe. Her world is, however, deeply moral.

Ms. Rowling’s wickedly adept pen satirizes our Western acquisitiveness and materialism, attacks middle class lack of imagination and preoccupation with status, pokes fun at our obsession with celebrity, critiques our entrenched classism, takes down sensational journalism that goes for ratings at the expense of truth, and shows little mercy for bureaucrats who care more about covering their tails than serving their constituents. Her arch-villain seeks power and security above all else, uses and disposes of his followers, and often acts alone. Her heroes value loyalty, family, friendship, community, courage, diligence, and honesty.

The characters never call on a Higher Power, nor is a Devil ever acknowledged in Ms. Rowling’s books, except for those who make themselves into devils through their narcissistic choices. Using magic in Rowling’s world is not a matter of believing or not believing in a Higher Power, or paying deference to a lesser power. There is no mention of prayer, ritual, or sacrifice in any religious sense at all.It is this seeming total independence from the spirit world that makes the Harry Potter books probably more secular humanist than anything else.

Even so, the choices and sacrifices made by Ms. Rowling’s heroic characters share much with Christian values. Friends sacrifice comfort for one another. Professionals sacrifice their careers for the truth. Ordinary citizens sacrifice safety for freedom.  Activists sacrifice reputation for justice. Others suffer on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Friends and family lay down their lives for one another.

Didn’t Jesus have something to say about that?

Finally, Rowling takes great pains (GREAT pains) to make clear in the books that even with all the magical whiz-bang fireworks going on, the greatest, deepest, and always victorious magic is – (drum roll please….) – love.

Love.

Yes, in the Harry Potter books, at the end of book 7, Love (not magical talent) wins. Resoundingly. Nothing replaces the power of love in the HP universe. Love is affirmed as the greatest power of all.

So no one prays.

But the protagonists truly love one another and live for others rather than themselves.

I can think of worse things for children to read.

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Harry Potter Apologist (Part 1)

The following statement will garner zero surprise from anyone who actually knows me:

I adore the Harry Potter books.

This is a fact somewhat troublesome to certain of my more conservative Christian friends, and/or Christian friends from certain denominations, and/or friends and acquaintances who simply don’t get the big fuss over fluffy children’s fare, and/or those who can’t get into the fantasy genre at all. Many of these people are people that I deeply respect for their integrity, thorough intellect, and thoughtfulness. Not crackpots. I also like to think that I am thorough, thoughtful, and not a crackpot, so it irks me that I seem to always be defending my literary preferences. As the final HP movie is due to open this summer, and I am re-reading the series with a couple of friends, I’d like to make one last effort to assuage the fears and scorn of the naysayers.

Allow me to address the religious concerns first.

Most of the objections that I hear from the Christian world about the Harry Potter books fall into either the “it will influence our children toward the occult” variety, or the more extreme “the books are demonized” variety.

Regarding charges of demonization, I don’t have a whole lot to say. Really, I don’t think I understand the argument. I am aware that satanism is a real thing, but from my understanding, it has much more in common with Ayn Rand than with  J.K. Rowling, who reside on opposite ends of the morality spectrum (more on that in the future). I also happen to believe in demons (I even believe I encountered one once. Not kidding) – I believe in real supernatural forces at work in the world, so I take that charge seriously, but I do not believe that they dwell at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Rowling’s created universe is clearly imaginary, and while I believe that imagination does have great power (more on that in future posts), I also believe it is a G-d -given gift to be exercised. I do not believe that the use of imagination constitutes a deal with the devil, nor do I believe that Rowling has used her considerable imaginative gift irresponsibly or to negative effect. She’s playful. Children play. Wasn’t it Jesus who said you must become like little children?

Regarding the charges of occultism, let me just point out that in my limited exposure to pantheism, nature cults, and wiccan practices (and my exposure is VERY limited), they seem to revolve mostly around nature-worship, reverence for the created world, rituals to mark and honor the activities of the Earth, and communication with the spirit realm (loosely defined) through these means. I believe it is mostly this manipulation of the spirit world that Christians object to  – it is a form of idolatry to bargain with lesser spirits rather than relying on the Holy One, and to worship the creation rather than the Creator. We could get into an interesting discussion someday about whether our modern obsession with technology is a new form of idolatry. Regardless, these forms of occultism have nothing to do with the magic portrayed in the HP books.

Rather than being spirit-led or nature-loving, Rowling imagines magic as sort of an inner technology born of some kind of recessive gene. Being born magical allows one to manipulate the physical world in invisible ways, and the “witches” and “wizards” that populate Ms. Rowling’s novels use magic like we use technology – for transport, communication, ease of physical labor, sport, healing, etc. It is usually passed through families, although magic-enabled people can sometimes be born of non-magical parents.

This is important to note – Rowling’s magic is congenital, so you are either born with it, or you aren’t. If you are not born with magical abilities, then no amount of training, trying, straining, muttering, wishing, wand-waving, animal sacrifices, or rituals will help you. It’s not something you can join or learn if you merely show an interest. You cannot bargain with spirits of any persuasion to acquire it.  There is no choice involved in being magical, only in how one chooses to use it. Furthermore, if a character is born magical, he can’t get rid of it, and needs to be trained in it’s use so that he doesn’t hurt himself or others. Hence, the youngsters in the novels must go to school, not to learn magic per se, but to learn to control it and channel it in healthy directions.

Ms. Rowling does allow for one magical subject in her imaginary school which overlaps with real-life “occult” practices – the study of Divination (fortune-telling, astrology). Here, Ms. Rowling soundly parodies the whole practice. The Divination teacher in the HP books repeatedly makes a fool of herself, and by the fifth or sixth book, she has been so thoroughly humiliated that she actually becomes an object of pity rather than amusement. Hardly an endorsement for young readers to start reading their horoscopes.

In closing the discussion of the occult, let me just admit that, yes, a child could conceivably become interested in the occult from reading Harry Potter. A child could also become interested in seances from reading A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge does, after all, spend the majority of the story in the company of some very exciting ghosts. Is it primarily the ghosts, though, that you remember from A Christmas Carol? They are colorful and exciting, but they are hardly the main event. The transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge is what keeps you coming back. So too, with Harry Potter. The “magic” makes it more fun, but it’s hardly what the story is about. The story is about a lonely, abused orphan who learns how to have friends, love, forgive, recover from mistakes, fight his battles, and sacrifice. It’s about his very human journey.

More to come….(comments, critiques, and questions welcome, as always).

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