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.

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