a few shots from the holistic gardens.
a long hiatus, but here is seven –
Today I resolve to forgive.
I will remember not only that I have been forgiven,
but that I am in desperate need of forgiveness.
When I am wronged, I will remember that I have wronged other people unintentionally,
and will not assume the intentions of others are malicious.
I will attempt to be understanding.
I will treat those who dislike me with kindness,
those who have hurt me with patience.
I will not demand repayment for past wrongs.
I will not require penitence for my pain.
I will not hold a grudge,
or perpetuate prejudice.
And when it is hard to forgive, I will look to the example of Christ,
who, as he was lifted up, prayed for those who pierced his side.
You stand at the beginning and wait,
Before you lie plans and possibilities,
hopes and dreams,
an uncertain path.
But God walks with you.
As you journey in a new year,
may you walk close to him,
relying on his strength
coveting his protection,
clinging to his arm.
In keeping with Harry Potter, one particular portion of the series that has been on my mind recently has been one of the objects Harry encounters in his first year at Hogwarts – the Mirror of Erised. It is, to me, one of the most interesting and troubling ideas in the entire series, for reasons I think will be clear shortly.
Harry wanders around the school and accidentally discovers an ornate mirror with the inscription “erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi” – which when reversed says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.” As Harry gazes into the mirror, he is shocked to see himself surrounded by his family – the parents and grandparents he never knew, as they were murdered just after he turned one year old. He brings his friend Ron, who sees himself as the winner of prizes and awards for the school, surpassing all the achievements of his very successful brothers. On a return visit, Harry is confronted by Dumbledore, the wise, old headmaster of the school, who tells Harry, “The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would see himself exactly as he is.” The mirror, Dumbledore explains, shows us not what we want it to, but rather the deepest and most desperate desires of our heart. This view into our desires, he cautions, gives us neither knowledge or truth. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”, he finishes. As Dumbledore sends Harry back to bed, Harry asks him what he sees in the mirror. Dumbledore replies that he sees himself holding a pair of thick, woolen socks, which Harry suspects, and later finds out, is not entirely truthful. “But then,” Rowling notes, “it [was] a rather personal question.”
All of this is well and good, but as I interact with the characters and the story, the difficult and frustrating part is that Rowling doesn’t allow me to remain an observer to Harry, Ron and Dumbledore as they look into the mirror – rather she places me in front of that unique and interesting magical object and forces me to imagine what I would see in the Mirror of Desire. As I search my own heart for clues about what I would see (happiness, success, popularity?), I am troubled not only because I’m not certain that I would like what I see, but also because I’m not certain I know what I would see. We guard our own deep desires so tightly that even we have difficulty knowing what they truly are. But I am reminded that in the eyes of Christ, all the walls and defenses we put up are useless – he, just like the mirror, sees directly into the depths of our hearts, a place we so often cannot even glimpse ourselves.
With the release of the 7th book of the Harry Potter series, Lisa and I have been discussing the interesting and complex question of evil, and whether it is necessary to use evil in order to combat it. This idea is certainly not new – I’ve quoted Nietzsche here before in a different, but related discussion -
Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein. – “He who fights monsters must take care that he not become a monster himself. For when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.”
The discussion isn’t confined to literature and theoretical philosophy – it’s immediately practical to the political and personal situations we find ourselves in daily. Is it acceptable to torture prisoners in order to gain information that could save lives? Are we justified in striking back at “the terrorists” in order to “preserve our way of life”? More importantly, at what point do we corrupt ourselves and become worse than the thing we are fighting? Commander Adama puts it very succinctly – “It isn’t enough to survive – one must be worthy of survival.”
The discussion is complicated by numerous difficult and potentially unanswerable questions – what exactly constitutes evil, and is any conception or definition we come up with able to be complete? Is justice simply another name for justifiable evil, since the intentional miscarriage of justice to an innocent person would often be seen as an “evil” act? And, moving back to Harry Potter briefly, is Dumbledore right – is love truly powerful enough to destroy evil alone?
While Rowling and other authors have the luxury of forging their own universe where their idealism is ultimately realized, it is often much more difficult for us to maintain an idealistic stance in the face of what sometimes seems to be overwhelming evil. My prayer for myself is that I would be more idealistic and less willing to compromise, more willing to be taken advantage of, knowing that in the end, love does triumph.