Today I present my final essay on the Harry Potter series and what it has meant to me over the years. I have built many memories around these books and their corresponding films. I am sad that now, with the release and well-deserved success of the final film, the world of Hogwarts has finally come to an end. As all great books do, though, they will continue to grow precious to me. I will read them again over the years, and I will receive new lessons and ideas each time I immerse myself in them. I cannot wait for the day I will read them to my children.
Without further hesitation, I give you part 3 of 3 of What Harry Potter has Meant to Me: On Being Alive
Part 3 of 3
I think that this may be the most important thing I gleaned from reading the Harry Potter series and making the stories a part of my life for nearly a decade. I came into the books at a time in my life when things were in transition. When I began reading them, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the most recently published installment. I was out of high school, I was preparing to leave for college, and I was dealing with all of the emotional, psychological, and spiritual conflicts that come along with that phase in life. As the books continued to be published, they each seemed to coincide with a phase I happened to be going through at the time. In a way, they helped me cope with complex and potentially devastating periods of my life. And, in the end, they helped teach me how to live, how to be alive.
Throughout the series, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are faced with extraordinary obstacles. Harry is orphaned as a young child, Hermione is the classic perfectionist and deals with a great deal of self-inflicted stress (as in The Prisoner of Azkaban), and Ron is born into a family that, at the outset of the series, must cope with poverty and the societal alienation that comes along with such. As the series progresses, they allow their struggles to become a part of their identities, and they learn to grow because of them. Then, when a great evil comes against them, and they are unexpectedly thrust into a war upon which the outcome of all humanity rests, they rise to they rise to the challenge and deal with it each day, week, month, and year as it unfolds. The conflicts with which they each wrestled as children prepared them for building and defending their world as adults. Struggle was no new thing to them, and they knew they would deal with each event as it arose, as they always had.
For years they fought for what they believed to be true, for the values which the generation before them had instilled within them. The most critical period of their lives, the time when they were transitioning into adulthood, was dedicated to a struggle to ensure a better future for those currently living and for those yet to be born. It was no ordinary generational or cultural struggle, either; their years were marked by true darkness, danger, and evil, all of which were represented by the fearsome presence of Lord Voldemort. They witnessed as their friends and families died and the world seemed to be turning in against them. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were so committed to the battle against Voldemort that they were each willing to put themselves into life-threatening situations for the cause. By the resolution of the story, this was who they were: they were the Order of the Phoenix, the resistance against Voldemort, and the individuals who battled the forces of darkness to protect light, freedom, and innocence in the world.
Despite these things, however, they still lived their lives. They still found time for games, to decide what they might want to do for careers after school, and spent time with family and friends. They still found time to fall in love. Even though they dealt with exceptionally dangerous and ominous times, they recognized that they were still alive. I think it is no accident that Rowling refers to Harry as “the boy who lived,” and not “the boy who survived,” because he didn’t merely survive as an infant something that should have killed him. He grew up. He went to school. He made friends. He had a first kiss, and then he fell in love. He made choices, developed ideals and values, and fought for that in which he believed. He lived; he didn’t wait for the war with Voldemort to be over before he experienced his life. Even after facing death and engaging in the great battle of his generation, he went on. He fulfilled his first purpose, and then he found a new one in his family.
We each engage in conflict on a daily basis. We each pass through hard times, a dark night of the soul. I have experienced periods in my life that I thought would consume me, times when I thought I didn’t care if the sun never rose again. There have been, and still are, things I wished to achieve in life that I thought weren’t possible or would never come. Time passes, and these things come and go. It would be easy for me to think that I am still working toward my “life,” that I am somehow still lacking something, or that certain events have yet to come to pass before I can relax and enjoy what I have. Harry Potter has helped me see that this would be no good way to live. Struggle never ceases, and it will always be present. But so will blessings. Voldemort will always be lurking somewhere out there on the edge of a shadow. My generation may yet have to face its great enemy.
What am I going to do?
I am going to live.