The Overlooked Lesson of Harry Potter

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Anyone who has read the books knows it: Harry Potter is packed with morals. Lessons of love, strength, courage and acceptance are easy to find within the familiar pages. True, there are a few morals that are a bit tainted – teaching children they shouldn’t go for help when a cruel witch is making them write in their own blood, for instance – but there are enough important jewels of life in the HP books to more than make up for it. There’s one, however, that I don’t hear very many people talk about: forgiveness.

For all of you who have not read Harry Potter, now is your time to turn back and find another blog post to pursue. These next paragraphs are fraught with spoilers. For the veterans of the HP series, come forth and hear me.

Hundreds of potterheads have speculated on why Harry would possibly name his son after Dumbledore and Snape. And though I would never name my children after a host of dead people, especially not an abusive killer or a man who raised me to die, I can see easily what JK Rowling was trying to demonstrate. The symbolism in Nineteen Years Later is not disguised.

JK Rowling was trying to show that Harry had made peace with Snape and Dumbledore. He had recognized – and I think this is a very important thing to do – that people change. That they make mistakes and then they try to take them back. That they do bad things and then regret them. Harry was being incredibly strong when he chose to forgive those people who had put him through hell and back.

Forgiveness is a hidden skill. It isn’t blaringly obvious. It doesn’t shout of its power. People often mistake it for a weakness. And yet it is often the key to happiness. With it as a tool, you can learn to move on, to leave the past behind you, to believe in other people and give second chances, and to forgive yourself for your own faults. How would Harry have lived with himself had he dwelt constantly on Sirius’s death? Would he have been happy had he kept his anger at Dumbledore and Snape burning in his heart?

Snape was cruel. He loved the dark arts. He was abusive. And yet when Harry dived into the pensieve, he saw how Snape had become that way. And he also saw that Snape was full of regret, of a deep pool of strength and of an undying love. The only way to put your soul back together is through regret. Snape’s soul was in one piece, and he was always hurting. So Harry was brave and he forgave – which, once you get to know Harry, is quite remarkable in itself. It shows how much he grew in the last book.

It wasn’t just Snape and Dumbledore either. He forgave Ron for running out on him. He forgave – even pitied – Malfoy. He forgave Dudley. All this is a precious lesson in one of humankind’s most beautiful skills. Forgiveness.

Endless Ripples

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Ripples, ripples, everywhere. Waves and waves of cascading change caused by just one pebble being tossed from a hand into still water. You will never know how much you matter. You will never discover everything you have done. You will never fully comprehend the change you have created in this universe.

Think of JRR Tolkien, for instance. He was barely famous at all when he died. He was one of the first fantasy writers, probably the first High Fantasy writer who ever got published, and was an inspiration to thousands of writers after him. As he wrote his books decades ago, in a part of the world I’ve never been, do you think he realized that across the globe and into the future a seventeen year old girl living alone in a cabin in the woods would find delight in his words? Could he know the lives he was changing, the things that his words would inspire? There is no way he even dreamed of the effect he has had on the world.

And you don’t have to be a famous writer or artist to create incomprehensible change. One word, one sentence, could forever alter the universe, for better or for worst. One small act of kindness could shift the fabric of existence. Giving an apple to a homeless person could give them hope and faith in humanity, could inspire them to take a chance. Donating a book to a bookless child could teach them empathy, give them hope and make them stronger. They could, in return, go on to do crazy things they never would have done, creating yet more change.

The true mark of a remarkable person is not necessarily that they give a hundred thousand dollars to a charity and stand there getting medals and public approval for it. Incredible is the person who does things they will never be recognized for. The person who gives without thinking about what they will get in return. They pass on pieces of themselves knowing that they may never get them back.

I do not even know the effect this blog is having on the world. It is a little thing, a couple of thoughts and a handful of my words donated to the infinite realm of cyperspace. But it could be doing things and I will never know. It could be causing change. I only hope that change is good and not bad.

You are reading this, right now, from some unknown place; I am speaking inside your head. We are connected, though we do not know it. Telepathy. Artists everywhere have long created ripples. They are creators, and they let their creations expand into a universe they know they will never see. The person who plants the tree under whose shade they will never sit is the bravest of our people, the kindest of our race. I hope that I have been able to plant flowers at the very least, if not trees.

So be careful, very careful. With great power comes great responsibility. You have great power. Hold it with care. With one word, you could ruin someone’s life or you could bring them to the heights of joy. You could plant the seed that will give shade to an unknown person, or you could cut down the tree that might have one day given relief from the heat of summer to a lost person. You could be the thing that pushes someone over the edge, or you could be the person who pulls them back to safety. You do not know how much you matter. You do not know your own strength. Please, take a moment to listen before you act. That one action, that one word, that one look has the power to alter the universe.

Open your heart. Open your mind. Open your ears. And then, only when you have listened long and hard with both heart and mind, should you open your mouth.

Giving Thanks

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This year was a weird Thanksgiving. I didn’t get to visit with all my family, we didn’t play any board games, we weren’t at home and we didn’t go around the table and tell each other what we were thankful for before digging into our feast. It was an odd, scattered kind of holiday.

But it is important to be grateful for life and it is important to demonstrate gratitude. We should always be thankful – ‘thanksgiving day’ is just a chance to share that gratitude. Maybe it’s a chance to tell someone how much they matter to you.

So here goes.

I am thankful for new opportunities and options. I am thankful for an incredible job, an amazing boss and plenty of things to learn. I am grateful for my adorable little cabin, and the chances to learn and grow that it provides me. I am happy to live in a beautiful place, on a beautiful island surrounded by kind people.

I am glad to be alive in such a fascinating world. I love the stories that are everywhere if only we look for them. I am happy that I am a writer and have been given the chance to unearth these stories, and to share and inspire. I am thankful for the hours I get to spend wrapped in blankets with endless mugs of tea, writing away into the night.

I am full of an incredible gratitude for the people and experiences that have shaped me. Going to my alternative school for highschool was – and always will be – the best decision of my life. It was the foundation to everything I am becoming, and everything I’ll be. It taught me to be who I am, to love deeply and to laugh often. I had amazing experiences during my time there. I climbed mountains, swam in glacier lakes and freezing bioluminescent oceans, ran through forests at dusk, spoke at prestigious conferences, played pranks, lit brooms on fire, sang to strangers on their doorsteps, and learned the magic of life. I will always be thankful for that.

I must also give thanks to the wonderful people in my life. I was gifted at birth by the family I was born to. I have two of the most incredible parents the world has ever seen. I have five amazing, kind, diverse siblings, and a wonderful brother-in-law, and a precious niece. I have had a beautiful childhood, full of adventure, roadtrips, laughter, and games. My family have all helped me to be who I am, and taught me incredible things. I know how lucky I am to have been raised the way I was.

Though many years of my life have been lonely, I still have a host of amazing friends. I want to thank them for being there for me, and for helping me learn who I am. I want to thank them for the good times we had, the songs we sung and the adventures we’ve been on. I want to thank them for being the shoulder I could cry on when things were tough. Somehow we got through everything teenagehood threw at us together – though I guess I shouldn’t speak too soon, it isn’t over yet. I want to thank them for being deep and true, strong and brave. They were never artificial friends and they never gave up on me. They are the type of people I want to know forever, the type of people I can envision myself sitting around a table with when we’re all fifty, reminiscing and making new memories.

So thank you. Thank you life. Thank you to my family and thank you to my friends. Sometimes I don’t get the chance to tell you all how much you matter.

The Importance of Rereading

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I generally get a lot of scorn directed at me for reading the same books more than once. Or, in the case of some of my favourites, more than a dozen times. The majority of my family shake their heads and look at me like I’m a silly fool when they see me rereading something I’ve read before. I let them do it, as I’ve long given up on arguing the subject with them. They don’t seem to understand how good – how important – it is to reread books.

For one, there’s the obvious point to be made that if I enjoy reading a book, then I should read it again. After all, I don’t go around to couples and be like “Oh my god, you’ve already kissed them once, do you need to do it again? Geez, find someone else to kiss.” Nor do I take cake away from people because they have already eaten cake once in their lives, and it isn’t necessary to do it again since they know what it will taste like. If I like a book, I’ll do it the favour of rereading it.

But it isn’t just the enjoyment side of rereading books that is important. Every time I read a book, I understand more. I remember more of the details, I learn the true nature of the characters, and I gain incredible insight into the intricacies of storytelling.

If you are a writer, then reread. Reread as if your heart depends on it. Reread to learn the tiny tricks of the trade that are hidden in the folds of foreshadowing and mystery. Study the sentences that at first seem to mean little, and then are revealed to be the hinges on which the story hangs. Bury yourself in the behind-the-scenes of writing a novel.

Authors are gods and goddesses. They are all-knowing within their worlds, ever-present and knowledgeable. By rereading, we have the advantage of being able to watch them weave their craft, because we are nearly as all-knowing as them. We are no longer sitting in the backseat of the story without a clue where we are going, or who is driving us, or how we’re going to get there. Instead, we sit in the passenger seat with a map across our knees, following the author’s route with our eyes, watching as they turn sharp corners and hurtle across bridges. We can study their style, unravel their mysteries and discover their plot holes, so that when we write we will have a better understanding of words.

Not only do we delve deep into the fabric of writing itself, but we can sometimes delve into the very nature of humanity. I have learned from rereading books that people are beautifully complex and intricate, not to be judged by appearance or first impressions. I have learned that in order to truly see someone, you must look past the things they tell you and the things they let you see. I have learned how deep everyone is, how the things on the surface are just the tips of immense icebergs.

When you reread a book, you know where all the characters are coming from. You have a clear view of how shallow, or down right wrong, the main character’s perceptions of the people around them can be. For instance – spoiler alert – rereading Harry Potter, I can see how Snape is feeling, what he is going through, when all Harry can see is the outside edge of him, how he appears to strangers. Rereading has given me great insights into the expression ‘nothing as it seems.’There is always more to a person then you think.

But this blog is long and winding, and I have much to do. Farewell. Don’t judge a book by its cover. There is so much depth hidden in its folds that will only be revealed to those who pursuit it twice.

Weekend Adventures

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This weekend was my first weekend without anything planned in the last six or seven weeks. It was the first one at my new house where I didn’t have people over and I wasn’t going away anywhere. It was a weird experience not to have to set my alarm, or pack a lunch, or worry about anything that needed doing. I made bread – that was an adventure in itself; a piece of advice, don’t just assume your yeast is instant and throw it into the bread as is – I wrote, I read and I slept in. Well, I slept in a bit, anyways.

It was a tiny smidgem lonely, as life is when I am not constantly thinking about things and my mind has time to feel empty. So I read a lot and I watched a historical movie that made me very glad to live in the present – I definitely wanted some of the cruel idiots in the movie to be punched in the face by the women they were using, but it didn’t happen, despite my best efforts to get the characters to listen to me and defend themselves. The slightly half-decent woman didn’t punch her horrid sister in the face either, though as the sister had her head chopped off later, it wasn’t really necessary. I was quite shocked at the end of the movie to realize that the whole thing was actually a true story. Were people ever really that stupid and horrible?

Anyways… In my quest to get involved in the community, I went to two community events this weekend. One was the opening of two trustees’ election campaign, and there wasn’t a soul in the room under fifty except me and the black cat that kept wandering around the hall. The food was good, which was mostly why I went. I mean… shhh….. I didn’t just go to that political event for free food, what are you talking about?

The other event was a showing of ‘How to Train Your Dragon Two’. The movie room was entirely full of hyper children and their parents, though there were a few people within five years of my age. Yay. Woot woot. You have to imagine me throwing my arms sarcastically into the air as I say that. But the movie was quite good, and had good morals as well. It always makes me happy to see a kid’s movie that is teaching people important things. Our stories make us who we are, so we need good children’s books and movies.

I then spent two hours adventuring across the island. I went by my grandparents’ old house and poked around the property for all the memories. It was all so familiar, and yet so distant. All the summers I used to spend there seemed to belong to a different existence, a lifetime away. And then I realized that the times I spent on that beautiful pebbled beach and wandering the gardens picking raspberries are actually over half my lifetime ago. It made me feel ridiculously old and young at the same time.

After sneaking around, trying not to be seen by the present owners of the house who may or may not have been there, I wandered back up the driveway and left. A few minutes later I ran across the people who still live beside my grandparents’ old house, and met the little girl I used to play with, who, oddly enough, is no longer a little girl. Time, hey? How weird.

After a long walk to the local store, and the sad realization that it was obviously not open at six o’clock on a sunday, I decided to hitch hike home. On these islands it is more of an issue of waiting for a car to pass then for one to stop. And, sure enough, the first car to come along the tiny, forested road picked me up and drove me right home. Sometimes I just love these islands.

Well, I have rambled on about my various adventures of the weekend for far longer than I should have, considering that it is late and I have work tomorrow. Goodnight.

Random Pieces of My Mind

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So this is kind of like a thought gallery, but more in-depths. I think of all sorts of strange tidbits, and then don’t have anyone to share them with. So this is my way of getting them out of my head before they drive me crazy.

* If anyone ever puts you down, rejects you, or tramples on your dreams, don’t give up or wallow in self pity. Instead, walk forwards with your head held high and vow to one day make them feel just as dumb as those twelve publishers who turned down JK Rowling feel, or that one music recorder who told the Beatles that they weren’t any good.

* Likewise, if you ever make a mistake, just remember that at least you didn’t reject JK Rowling’s book or refuse to record the Beatles.

* In less, of course, your mistake was turning down the next JK Rowling, in which case you kind of have to feel dumb.

* So remember to be open to people and give them a chance. Don’t jump to conclusions or assumptions and shut people off because of first impressions. Everyone is a JK Rowling at something.

* And maybe they are just waiting to find their talents and spring forth. Maybe you are waiting to find your talents. Everyone has them.

* I wish people, including me, wouldn’t judge people by certain sides, faults, or talents of themselves. My school taught me, by making me live in close quarters with a host of strange people, that you can love anyone if you know them enough.

* No one is evil, no one is truly bad. Just as no one is truly good. The notion of “Good versus Evil” is something that is bringing a lot of stress, misunderstanding, violence and apathy to our world.

* People fight others because they see themselves as being right, and good, and their opponents being wrong, and bad. But maybe if we all realized that there are multiple truths, we would learn to have empathy. And then even if we still did not agree with someone, we would at least understand where they are coming from and be able to treat them with peace.

* I think reading and writing build a lot of empathy, because words allow people to enter into other people’s heads like nothing else does. Movies are just the outside of a scene, but reading is telepathy.

* And with the power to write comes the responsibility of a teacher. Writers need to allow their readers penetration of both protagonist and antagonists hearts, so that they can understand. Authors need to use their telepathy to spread peace and empathy, even if they do so subconsciously.

It’s weird where the mind goes, isn’t it? Each of these thoughts are connected, and yet they are very different in nature. The evolution of thought, I suppose. Anyway, it is cold under this tree where I am sitting to get internet. Farewell.

A Writer’s Rambles

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My novel is coming along… slowly, surely… but coming along none the less. I am writing more than ever, a thousand words a day on normal days, when I don’t have people around to convince me not to be a crazy hermit and go do something with them instead.

My characters are flourishing – okay, that’s a lie, nobody would read a book if every character flourished. My characters are living though, most of them. They are in the tangles of adventure and sometimes I feeling like a horrible heartless goddess for the things I put them through. When I say goddess, of course, I mean author. I create their universes, but sometimes their universes are cruel and cold.

I admit, I get emotional when I’m writing. I turn the music up, tune reality out, and disappear into the depths of my novel. I laugh when something is funny, my heart quickens at the exciting parts, and if something is particularly tragic I feel horribly guilty and sad. My breathing is fast through the dramatic parts, my eyes glued to the screen as my fingers fly across the keys and my characters reveal their true natures to me.

It is bliss, that wonderful ability to not exist as yourself and instead exist inside every heart of every character and every grain of dirt on the cobbled streets you invented. It is bliss to layoff on being a human and be instead the caressing wind, the rough tower walls, the sigh of breath, the tapestry of a city cascading in terraces from the viewpoint of a castle window. It is bliss to be glinting marble, the swishing hems of silken dresses and the golden glow of dying fires. It is bliss to be nobody and yet everybody, to have all the power in the world and yet be a simple observer watching as a scene unfolds. It is bliss to be a writer.

I have the perfect escape from trouble and the perfect expression of hopes and dreams, fears and wishes. To write and read is to be schooled in empathy, compassion and creativity. To write is to lose yourself to the cause of uncovering something else, and yet to write is to find yourself through the creation of other people.

In the speckled heavens lay a thousand stories, and in your open eyes, a thousand more.  Pick up a pen and begin; it’s worth it, I promise you.