First I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to yesterday's Groper Poll. Sammy especially took the time to give an in-depth response which I found interesting and helpful.
My interest in Harry Potter has been aroused for some time. I've been considering watching the movies. I keep hearing that to enjoy the full impact I really need to read the books. Those massive books! At any given time I have eight to ten books on my bedside table that I'm working my way through - and rarely do these include fiction. Guess I need Cliff Notes on Potter.
After posting yesterday's question I found an interesting editorial by Michael Gerson of RealClearPolitics, Harry Potter and the Power of Myth. This piece addressed something I thought must be at work in Rowland's story telling.
The books, in fact, are gloriously derivative, providing an introduction not to magic but to mythology. Harry's world is populated by centaurs, dragons, werewolves, grindylows, veela, Cornish pixies, sphinxes, phoenixes, goblins and hippogriffs. It is as though Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology, European folklore and Arthurian legend suddenly discovered the same playground....
Now that is something I can really appreciate; myth and symbolism. The majority of my criticism aimed at religion, usually of the fundamentalist variety, is that many adherents (too many) take various myths and symbols literally, as truth claims, and take psychological motifs and turn them into a cult of fanaticism.
Gerson goes on to add:
The world's great stories -- of heroic journeys, of peril, testing and courage, of nature enchanted, of happy endings -- get reincarnated for a reason. Created to explain the world, myths eventually began to explain us and our pre-rational values and culture. When these strings are touched, we feel the vibrations deep down. And we know that myths are not the same as lies.
The enchanted world of our childhood imagination is often tempered by the starkness of reality as we get older. It seems that for most people, it is just redirected to one of the religious traditions. In our day cafeteria-style religion is popular. People tend to partake of whatever spiritual truths they see being served up and in a sense create their own personal spiritual world view. I think that is why New Age ideas are so popular. These New Age ideas have actually infiltrated many of the traditional religions, much to the agitation of orthodox theologians.
My Pantheism is a symbolic and imaginative response to the universe I find myself a part of. When I speak of God, creation, sin, and similar terms, I'm really speaking metaphorically to evoke what Gerson referred to as those strings that vibrate deep down in our souls (there again I speak metaphorically).
That isn't well-received among a small minority who believe scientific skepticism and pure logic is all that is needed to form a well-rounded individual. They feel folks like myself are only muddying the waters. I respect their opinion. I just disagree, obviously.
We need science, more than ever before as our world is facing so many challenges. But we need religion/spirituality too. We need logic, but we need fantasy as well. Try as hard as we like to be purely rational creatures and our brains will betray us in our dreams while we are off guard. There is that illusionary realm of thought where our psychological needs are addressed as they often are not in the banality of the real world.
We are emotional creatures and wish-fulfillment and repressed desires will out. We must acknowledge and embrace that aspect of ourselves. Yes, yes, keep a foot firmly grounded in the "real world" and let reason be our guide. But give imagination its place.
Our increased knowledge of our surroundings hasn't diminished the usefulness of myth. If anything I believe it highlights it.