Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Harry Potter, Chesterton, and Courage

   I will not be posting artwork this time- I am still working on my painting, and I thought about showing you the progress I've made, but I think I want to wait until it is finished. It is turning out well so far, and I am happy with it, and that is not a common occurrence.
   I have also thought about doing non look-at-my-artwork posts, and using my blog to share things I find, and to maybe share a thought or two here and there. I live a rather solitary life at the moment, which I like in some ways, but I must confess the idea of broadening my blogging horizons sounds attractive. That said, I want to share a new friend with you.
    I am a new Harry Potter fan. And I mean fan! (Yes, I do realize that I am about one million years late, but that's a long story- I was once a "Harry Potter has real curses and will have your kids killing kitties" misled little Catholic) I have been thinking about why this is. I've had my crosses, as we all do, and the topics of courage, love, and fighting have become both dreaded and loved by me over the past few years. They have become friends that are so close now, that the lovely sensitivity they cause is painfully and perpetually fresh. All the best friends wound you in some way or another.
    And so I love Harry Potter. It is a story of love and sacrifice and heroic suffering. Even if fate has dealt you a nasty blow, you don't have to become bitter or complacent- or seek out the One Ring, the best crystals for a super lightsaber, and the Deathly Hallows to undermine death, and take over the universe as the One All Powerful Overlord who spends her days planning out monologues to bellow to minions or enemies with her nails painted blood-red with the coolest black gothic outfit ever and stripes in her hair..... Ah hem, no, because suffering is not bad. (*gasp*) Yes, it is because of evil we suffer, but inn some ways, you could say we were born to live and suffer, and that is a gift, if we use it well. I am reminded of a F.J. Sheed quote I saw recently, "If Christ came to save us, then it must be noted that He did not come to save us trouble." Not that Harry was a saint to came to see all suffering as a gift to offer up- rather he is, as many other characters of the series are, struggling human beings who do what they can with themselves and their circumstances, and I think that is part of the luster of J.K. Rowling's series. They give and give and give- even if they are scared out of their wits, even until death. (I am not a completely brain-washed starry eyed fan-girl, I know the story has it's faults- but not all books that are good are written by saintly Catholic theologians, but they are written by people who have human hearts and are made in God's image... but that's about a dozen other topics in itself that I hardly feel qualified to discuss, at least at the moment)
    I think another reason I love the series is that while romance is not a prominent theme, it is still about the Great Romance- and I have found very few stories, at least in fantasy today (especially YA fantasy), that capture that Romance as well as J.K. Rowling did in her story. I will admit to not being nearly 1/gazillionth as literarily savvy as I'd like, but I have done a fair amount of reading in my life, fantasy being one of my favorite things in the world, and I have found few books that I love as much as these for that very reason. I think most if not all the books in my favorites list touch on it in some way, but these definitely make it to the top 5.
   Now, I could probably stay up all night giving you St. Therese quotes about suffering and digging up evidence in the Harry Potter books, but I think I will, of course, use Mr. Chesterton:

G.K. Chesterton on Romance

All romances consist of three characters… For the sake of argument they may be called St. George and the Dragon and the Princess. In every romance there must be the twin elements of loving and fighting. In every romance there must be the three characters: there must be the Princess, who is a thing to be loved; there must be the Dragon, who is a thing to be fought; and there must be St. George, who is a thing that both loves and fights. There have been many symptoms of cynicism and decay in our modern civilization. But of all the signs of modern feebleness, of lack of grasp on morals as they actually must be, there has been none quite so silly or so dangerous as this: that the philosophers of today have started to divide loving from fighting and to put them into opposite camps. [But] the two things imply each other; they implied each other in the old romance and in the old religion, which were the two permanent things of humanity. You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust… but it is lust, because it is wholly self-indulgent and invites no attack. On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal. Wherever human nature is human and unspoilt by any special sophistry, there exists this natural kinship between war and wooing, and that natural kinship is called romance. It comes upon a man especially in the great hour of youth; and every man who has ever been young at all has felt, if only for a moment, this ultimate and poetic paradox. He knows that loving the world is the same thing as fighting the world.    

   I have been thinking on who Harry's "Princess" is that he was fighting for could be. You could say it was his love interest, Ginny, who fit this description, but I think it was more than that- much more. He was willing to leave Ginny for life for what he thought was right if he had to. No, he had his parents memory and their sacrifice, his friends and their sacrifices, and, encompassing all, love to fight for. He gave his life for Romance (How could a book embracing such Christian principles be satanic? Yes I know, that's another topic... ). 
   You may think I am stretching things: saying such things about Harry Potter (a tale with joke shops, the Chuddley Cannons, Hippogriffs, flying cars, remembrals, owl mail services, petrified kitties, etc) and connecting it to the Chesterton Quote, and all this talk of love, etc. But I tend to find connections everywhere for better or worse, and I am grateful for the comfort and even strength I find in little things such as stories. I find many things that connect back to the Chesterton quote, if not all things. Maybe I am overly simplistic, I am not sure. But while it is not advisable to underestimate evil, I think it is just as if not more tragic to underestimate the power of good. I know for my part I will take what I can, when I can- and I found much in Harry Potter. 

Excuse me... This muggle must go check her e-owls. (Couldn't resist) In the mean time, enjoy this fan video- I thought it was quite good. But be warned, it contains spoilers.

P.S. Ignore that last part about the Pope in the mtv link.... I truly believe there is more to that story, and I am not the only one. 
   Don't forget to check out  the Hogwarts Professor and Mark Shea's blog on the matter. God bless!


  1. Interesting post (I love connecting Chesterton quotes with other books :D ). I'm still on the fence about the series, to be honest (leaning towards them, though); nearly all my friends read and love them, but I'm just not sure. I have noticed the critics do tend to say things about them that, according to fans, are distorted, taken out of context, or even untrue... and apparently, one of my only anti-Potter friends was under the impression that the remark that Cardinal Ratzinger made was some kind of pronouncement by the Pope when it was a private letter made when he was still Cardinal. So... yeah. There's a ridiculous amount of confusion on what should be a pretty simple subject.

  2. I was exactly like you about 2 months ago- but then decided that I wanted to get to the bottom of things so I could see the last movie in theaters if I wanted to- that and I LOVE fantasy, and I'm always looking for something new. You are right, deal with the Pope is that is was a private letter when he was a Cardinal, and the quote is even vague as to whether he was talking about HP at all. There were a few things that are just sketchy about it- but I can't say anything more than that because I never really looked into it further.
    And yes, there are outlandish accusations against HP- and usually in a not so charitable way either. I just remember being so baffled the entire time I was reading the books- and I was quite humbled by it, seeing as I was almost a "Harry Hater" at one time. If you like, google "Regina Doman on Harry Potter" (if you know who she is) or maybe "Mark Shea on Harry Potter"... he has a TON of posts on this matter on his blog. Also, you might try "John C. Wright on Harry Potter." And, again, the Hogwarts Professor is good as well- but beware, there are some major geekage going on on some of those sights. ;) It's lovely!
    And, you know, maybe just try the books. You don't have to keep reading them- and who knows, maybe you will be moved to tears at parts in them like I was. Joanne Rowling is not perfect- but she did an outstanding job!

  3. “We are trying to get to heaven. That’s what life is about, and that’s what any good story is about. Every story begins with Creation and ends with the Last Judgment. Every author is trying to achieve the Incarnation, trying to make the Word into flesh. Every author puts his character to the test. There is always an adversary that has to be overcome. Evil will always seem to have the upper hand and will appear to triumph. Ultimately, however, good will prevail, but not without sacrifice. The object of Incarnation is Crucifixion. The object of Crucifixion is Resurrection. But you cannot get to Easter morning unless you go through the Agony in the Garden and the Death on the Cross. Every author who has mastered the craft of storytelling will give us a taste, a hint of these eternal truths. All art touches the eternal.” --Dale Ahlquist, Common Sense 101: Chapter 6-Words about Words.

  4. I say! Excellent quote there Emily old thing! :) Not to, well, gush some more, but that captures the spirit of Harry Potter quite nicely. I mean, I am not one who likes to read a in your face Christian message into everything- in fact that annoys me- but I can't deny it fits HP, and so many other stories, especially the ones that end up on the favorites list.

  5. Mary -- I'd read Regina Doman and Mark Shea on HP before, and I'd heard of and read some of John C. Wright's blog, but not recently so I hadn't read his writing about Harry Potter. I read it last night - pretty good stuff, very impressive. I'm thinking about reading them now... Thanks for the recommendations.