Monday, January 17, 2011

Harry Potter: The Mirror of Erised

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised in a hidden room at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. When Harry looks into this mirror, he sees himself surrounded by his mother, his father, and other members of his family. Harry has never known his parents or his family (other than the aunt and uncle who grudgingly raised him, along with his favored cousin Dudley). Harry's parents died when Harry was only one year old, and he doesn't remember them.

Harry becomes enamored of the Mirror of Erised and returns to the hidden room, simply to gaze at his parents and family with longing. Fortunately, Professor Dumbedore finds Harry there, cautions him about the dangers of yearning for what cannot be, and moves the mirror to another harder-to-find location.

The Mirror of Erised shows the gazer the deepest desire of his or her heart. For Harry, who has never known his own tribe, this is his family. For Ron Weasley, Harry's best buddy, who has been overshadowed throughout his life by his five elder brothers, this is special recognition: Ron sees himself in the Mirror of Erised as Head Boy of Hogwarts, as winner of the Hogwarts House Cup, as Captain of a winning Quidditch Team. Dumbledore tells Harry that a perfectly content person would simply see his or her own reflection in the Mirror of Erised.

I wonder what I would see if I looked into the Mirror of Erised. I think that my deepest desire is for safety and security. Yes, I know that this is not particularly admirable. But when I look into myself, that is what I see. I see myself retired with enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life.

Being retired would mean freedom from the unfortunate feeling of being an impostor and the fear of being revealed as a fake. Even though I have a wonderful work situation, this fear keeps me from enjoying my work as much as I might. There is also the fear of losing my work. If I were retired, I would be beyond the reach of those fears.

Even better, perhaps, might be to see myself on the point of a good death. For me, a good death is conscious, relatively pain-free, and surrounded by loved ones. Being at the point of a good death eliminates the fear of how one will die. If I were dying right now of a terminal illness in a conscious, relatively pain-free way, surrounded by loved ones, I would not fear becoming senile, incapacitated, pain-filled, or alone. The uncertainties of this earthly life would be nearly ended.

So, non-admirable as it is, I think that the Mirror of Erised would show me myself in a safe and secure situation - perhaps retired with enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life, perhaps on the point of a good death.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Harry Potter: Mountain Troll and Friendship

"There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them" (J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Scholastic, p. 222).

In their first two months at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are not fond of their classmate Hermione Granger. They see Hermione as a bossy know-it-all. But after Harry, Ron, and Hermione find themselves face to face with a mountain troll and work together to knock him out, the three become fast friends.

This makes me think about the kinds of experiences that lead people to bond in friendship. I can think of four kinds of such experiences.

FACING DANGER. The mountain troll of the first Harry Potter novel fits into this category. So does the bonding that often occurs among men of the same military unit in war. A wonderful story in this category comes from Hurricane Betsy in 1965. A mother with a newborn baby (named Betsy) had to leave her child in the care of someone at a shelter for a short time and chose a school teacher with a kind face. The mother, her family, and Betsy became lifelong friends of that school teacher. This true story was enacted in Remembering Betsy: Voices from the Storm, a play that grew out of a high school oral history project during the early 2000s in Chalmette, Louisiana. The actual school teacher enacted the role of herself in the play.

ACCOMPLISHING A GOAL. Those who work together to accomplish a goal often bond closely. The goal might be anything from climbing Mount Everest to establishing a neighborhood community garden.

TALKING OPENLY. When people are able to open up and speak honestly about themselves with each other from their hearts, a close bond is often created.

SHARING FORMATIVE EXPERIENCES. I find this to be true with my classmates from the Academy of the Sacred Heart. Many of us spent the major part of each day together for fourteen years - pre-Kindergarden, Kindergarden, and twelve grades of elementary and high school. We shared and were shaped by the special traditions and ways of teaching of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. I feel a bond with anyone who has attended a Sacred Heart school, especially the one in New Orleans, and very specially with the members of my class.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Joan of Arc Parade

January 6 is a very special night. It is the Feast of the Epiphany, or the Three Kings. It is Twelfth Night, or the twelfth night after Christmas, which ends the Christmas season. It is the beginning of carnival! And it is the first day when we can eat King Cake!

January 6 is also the birthday of Saint Joan of Arc. We celebrate this in New Orleans with a parade by the Krewe of Jeanne d'Arc. I went down to the French Quarter this evening with David to see this parade.

The Krewe of Jeanne d'Arc is a walking parade. Krewe members make their own medieval-era costumes. There are such medieval characters as crusaders, monks, nuns, peasants, and stilt walkers. A young girl on horseback represents the Maid of Orleans, or Joan as a soldier. Another woman wears a tall white hat with Joan's "crimes" inscribed upon it (Heretic, Blasphemer, Relapsed, Idolater) and represents Joan as a condemned prisoner soon to be burned at the stake. Three men pull an authentic medieval cart constructed specifically for the parade by students at Delgado Community College.

The Krewe of Jeanne d'Arc ends its parade at the Place de France, where there is a statue of Saint Joan on her horse, a gift from the people of France to the people of New Orleans. There, everyone enjoys King Cake to celebrate Joan's birthday. This year, January 6, 2011, is Joan's 599th birthday. Next year, January 6, 2012, will be Joan's 600th birthday!

Birthday Wishes

This evening I was given a lovely birthday tea by Merry at her home. David and Ninette were also present. Merry asked each person to give me a birthday wish for the New Year. What beautiful birthday wishes they were!

Merry's wish for me comes from Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is that I may enjoy earth's pleasures while also growing close to God. This means being firmly grounded on the earth and also seeing through the eyes of the heart.

Ninette's wish for me is serenity. Serenity is the very deep inner peace that allows one to remain centered no matter what is happening on the surface of one's life. It is being the ocean, not the waves. The waves create a lot of splash and noise, but the ocean at its core remains at peace.

David's wish for me is that I continue in curiosity and life-long learning.

I LOVE these wishes! Thank you, Merry, Ninette, and David!