Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Harry Potter Meets Doc Brown

Originally posted Thursday, June 10, 2004
Click here to listen to me reading the podcast version of this post

Today we were supposed to go to Callaway Gardens, but it rained too much, so I decided to go to work to finish up preparations for the security training that will be tested starting tomorrow when my coworkers return from a conference. My grandparents, uncle, and great grandma went to Virginia Highlands today and then we went to see the new Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban film.

I was very pleased with this film. At first, I found it too super-fantastical and silly, but it quickly delved into symbolism about the battle between good and evil and the mystery of existence that I enjoyed. It was a metaphor for our journeys as human beings from being frightened of the "dementers" that haunt our psyche to becoming fearful only of fear itself. These dementers are the obstacles and barriers we face from our pasts that for years and years on end we are certain we will never overcome. But, the story shows that they can be overcome.

One of the most interesting parts for me was when Harry and his companions traveled back in time to save two innocent lives. I interpreted this on several levels. On the first level, it can be seen as it was portrayed. The characters actually traveled back in time and caused certain events to happen that prevented others from taking place. In the course of the scene, Harry from the future, having already witnessed someone who saves him from the dementers in the past, thinks the one who rescued him was his own father, who had passed away many years before. His companions assure him that no, his father had been killed years ago, but Harry is convinced. It is only when they go back in time and see the evil that is about to be visited upon themselves that Harry is forced to step in and take the place of who he thought had been his father! This is brilliant!

I see a deeper metaphor to this scene as well, and it makes me now think of the film Back to the Future as well. When Harry was so certain that it was his father that rescued him from the dementers, but suddenly had to step in to save himself, he moved from childhood to adulthood in that instant, when he became the steward of his own well being. He gave up illusions that somebody else was going to save him and took responsibility for his own future.

In the final scene of the film, Harry and his companion return to the scene of where they left to go back in time, just in time to catch a glimpse of themselves vanishing. Their bed-ridden friend witnesses the vanishing and the sudden reappearance on the other side of the room with astonishment. He asks them something like, "How can you be in two places at the same time!"

The gentler, even more brilliant subtext to this is that we are all in two places at the same time. Perhaps I should say we are all in each moment as it happens now, as it was before, and as it will be. Harry may have thought that it was his father who saved him even though it turns out that it was really himself. But, the two are really one in the same in the end as Harry achieves adulthood, fulfilling his expectations of what his father was to do.

One of my favorite quotes that I hope always stays with me no matter how lost or angry or confused I get is from George Washington Carver. I think it sums up the wisdom within this film quite well:

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

This recalls the paradoxical scenes in Back to the Future when Marty looks at the photograph of himself and sees himself disappearing, underscoring to him even more how important it is that he perform the right action at the right time. Marty achieves his goal by inspiring his future father to stand up for his future mother when he decks the bully Biff. As a result, Marty returns home to a completely different world than he knew wherein Biff waxes his father's car and everyone in the family treats each other and those outside the family, including Biff, with kindness and respect. This so perplexes him that he can hardly believe his eyes or ears.

How fortunate it was for Marty that he was able to travel into his past and bring to pass just one right action to demand respect for his mother that cascaded a chain of actions bringing him into a future so foreign and so unimaginably beautiful to him and his family and friends. How all the more fortunate it is for those of us who live today, in the here and now, to begin to be able to put into place those principles of kindness and respect and honor.

When we begin to do this on a second by second basis it grows into minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, and year by year. How fortunate for us that by doing these things now, we will need neither a Delorean with a flux capacitor and a Mr. Fusion nor a magic broom.

As both these films illustrate, the destiny of a lifetime rests not in the distant future, but in the actions and attitudes we bring to the people we are with each and every moment of our lives.

Of this I am absolutely certain.

Back to the Future Delorean with Mr. Fusion at Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA

Currently listening :
Mystical Garden
By Omar Faruk Tekbilek
Release date: 06 August, 1996

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