Sunday, September 26, 2010

"I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. "I am with you."

Big Harry Potter spoilers. You should have already read the books by now.

I touched on something in my earlier post about Harry Potter that I wanted to explore a little more. I mentioned how when I first started reading Harry Potter, I didn't fully understood what Dumbledore was saying. It all felt really cheap and kind of lame when he talked about "love" being a kind of magic. My 9-year-old self was thinking that if it's magic, there has to be a spell. J.K. Rowling was copping out in my mind.

Because really, I fell in love with Harry Potter because the universe was so neat. The characters were rich and as alive to me as any of my other friends. There was action and there was mystery. The writing held my attention so well I could just sit and read the books for days. In short, there wasn't any deeper meaning to me than what was right in front of me.

Except for all the hidden messages. Like how the chess scene in the first book was totally an analogy for how the entire war was going to go down? Or how Ron Weasley was actually psychic, he just kept making all his predictions like jokes because he didn't realize his own power? Reading in to the books was tons of fun. It was so much fun other people made books about it. That I bought and devoured.

I was really the perfect age to start Harry Potter. The books started from the perspective of an 11-year-old, which was not far from where I was in life. Magic was as exciting and new to Harry as it was to me. We experienced the new world together. At first, like Harry, I had no idea what Dumbledore meant about love. If love was magic, why wasn't there a class about it? As Harry grew, his understanding of his world matured, and so did mine. Life wasn't just about magic, life was about corruption and evil and deceit. Harry's view mimicked my own because of how we had grown together.

It started to make sense, for both of us, at Snape's death.

Voldemort didn't understand love. He didn't understand that someone would give their life for another person. He didn't understand it to the point that he completely overlooked it as a possibility. He believed that Snape was loyal to him, because it never occurred to him that Snape would die for his love of Lily. And that mistake ultimately brought his downfall.

And it was at that point that I fully understood what she meant. Almost ten years later, and with enough life experience, I was able to fully appreciate the magnitude of that message. I saw what J.K. Rowling meant by how love is powerful, as powerful or more so than most magic. In the end it doesn't matter how much magic any wizard could use. All that matters is that we have the capacity to love and care for each other.

I never would have understood that at the age I started reading Harry Potter. I mean, honestly, Dumbledore explained this point blank in the first book and it went right over my head. And people analyzed the books and thought that there was some underlying plot or secret that would be revealed in the last 20 pages, but it was so much simpler than that. I thought that making the answer "love" was cheap, but really, that's what made the books so GOOD. It was a story about a woman who loved her child so much, she gave her life for him. A story about a young boy and girl whose love we watched grow timidly and earnestly. A story about a man who loved a boy as if he were his own. A story about a man who loved another man.

A story about a man who did not love.

J.K. Rowling wrote a story about love and how no matter what our abilities and our choices are, love is all that will truly define us.

I had a really special experience, as my entire generation did, to slowly grow with the series to learn its ultimate truth at a time when we could fully know it.

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