History reminds us we do not exist in a vacuum but are beings part of a larger whole dependent on shared wisdoms and beliefs. Countless aeons of story telling traditions and evolving mythologies speak to the very heart of our humanity. These shared stories, rituals and wisdoms have fallen by the wayside leaving our children with a sense of profound isolation and detachment. By ignoring the richness of symbolic language and lore, we offer our children a barren wasteland of artifice and transparent tales, spoon-fed ideas and empty thoughts. Gone is the world of exploration, replaced instead by the quick fixes of sit coms, movies, video games and on-line chat rooms. Poetic language and the art of communication is lost to vulgarity and coarseness. Heroic stories of wonder and enchantment gather dust while spandex clad wrestlers in the ring of artifice and glitz become the Titans of our children’s fantasy lives. Although we can make room for the pleasures of simple entertainment, we cannot use it as the sustenance for our children’s imaginations. Why do some of us expect so little of our children and offer them so little in return? Why have we forgotten to give them credit for being complex and capable human beings?
The Harry Potter stories, for example, have been able to reclaim some of the missing magic necessary for a child’s development. A storyteller along the lines of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling speaks to a child’s secret wishes, hopes and fears. Each child cherishes a desire to become something more, a unique person seeking to express him or herself in this world. By mirroring a character like Harry, or Ron or Hermione for that matter, a child can use the imaginative story as a vehicle for transformation. Light and dark intertwine as children weave their way through the tales; good can overcome evil through right choice and right action. Although faced with many obstacles, the character Harry, a vulnerable and very human boy, is triumphant time and again. When a child relates to a character who struggles and perseveres, it leaves room in his or her world for hope. Hope, for any child, is a wonderful gift.
Through the Potter books, new life is breathed into the archetypes and mythologies of long ago. The images can evolve into their contemporary counterparts to speak to the generation at hand. Harry as a young Hercules, Beowulf or King Arthur? Ron the loyal friend, perhaps Iaolus as a red-head? Hermione a lass of cunning intelligence and wisdom, a little Athena thrown in for good measure? Dumbledore carries whispers of Merlin the Magician; Lord Voldemort, shades of Satan. When a child experiences the old archetypes - the heroes, the fools, honourable men and women, the villains, the loyal friends - through the print of a good book, he or she will be more equipped to recognize them in the real world.
Why is it, for some of us, we are blind to Harry’s world of dragons, magical folk and interesting creatures symbolizing some of life’s mysteries? It is because our Muggle society has created so many walls separating people, places, cultures, religions etc., that we cannot see the mysteries for what they truly are. Love, respect, wisdom, truth, courage and hope are some of the magical elements needed to form the foundation of a more healthy society. These mysteries can be revealed to our children through the symbolic language of poetry, mythology and the well-turned tale.
Like the Muggles in the realm of Harry Potter who hate and fear magic or fail to recognize it, some of us do not necessarily see the enchantment around us and are prevented from moving out of the mundane into joy. Without imaginative and rich stories we would be left in a two-dimensional limbo lamenting the loss of the thrill of discovery and recognition. Somewhere along the line we relinquished our children’s right to wonder. By opening the door to mythology and stories rich in symbolism, we introduce a fundamental world view where individuals can be wonderfully unique in their identities but still part of the larger tapestry of an ethical community. It’s time to overcome the Muggle mindset and reclaim the magic in our lives.