GAHP 3, Wherein MOTORBIKES DON’T FLY!…

“‘I had a dream about a motorbike,’ said Harry, remembering suddenly. ‘It was flying.’ Uncle Vernon nearly crashed into the car in front. He turned right around in his seat and yelled at Harry, his face like a gigantic beetroot with a moustache, ‘MOTORBIKES DON’T FLY!'”
(Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, 24).

Except, it turns out, that they do. In Jo Rowling’s world of wizards and muggles motorbikes do, in fact, fly (though in flagrant violation of Ministry of Magic laws concerning the enchantment of muggle artifacts, cf. the Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia). What is more, Vernon Dursley knows that they fly, or at least that they very well might fly if a wizard got hold of one. Vernon Dursley knows about the wizarding world. He knows that it exists, he knows that Harry’s parents were wizards, he knows about Albus Dumbledore, and he also knows by now that Harry is a wizard too. Why, then, does he continually close his eyes to the relentless truth that magic is a part of the fabric of reality in his world?

One of my good friends is an honest to goodness magician. It’s what he does for a living. He makes tables fly and women vanish and he can change an ace of spades into a jack of diamonds. His name is Derek and he is the person, more than anyone else, who has helped me to see the danger and horror of that accompanies the death of the imagination. He helped me to understand how to look at the world with a greater sense of wonder. He showed me that above all we choose to see wonder, we choose to experience magic in our lives. I have no interest in knowing how it is that Derek makes things fly. People who need to know a magician’s tricks have completely failed to understand what it is that magicians do. They don’t understand that knowing won’t make it more magical. The magic, the wonder, is in the choosing. We experience the magical and miraculous when we adjust the way that we see the world.

It was Chesterton who said “the world will not perish due to a lack of wonders, but due to a lack of wonder.” All of the great accomplishments of civilizations, all of the glory and wonder of creation, and all of the art and literature the world has to offer, every miracle ever performed, are so much nonsense and waste in the hands of a person who is unwilling to see them. The same is true of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is Vernon Dursley’s great sin. He has no interest in living a life of wonder. He chooses to live a mundane life.

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GAHP 2, Wherein We Meet Albus Dumbledore…

“Nothing like this man had ever been seen in Privet Drive.”
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 12).

Jo Rowling has explicitly stated that Dumbledore was never intended as a “Christ” figure. I can’t see why anybody would ever have thought him one, but it’s always good to get such things out of the way.

What Dumbledore is, is a wizard. He is, I would say, the wizard. Though it may be the case that “everything from his name to his boots was unwelcome” in Privet Drive, it is equally true that “everything from his name to his boots” epitomize what a good wizard can be. Though one might fixate upon Dumbledore’s great moments of power and authority (and there are indeed many) in trying to understand the character, all that we need as readers is found on the 12th page of The Philosopher’s Stone. Dumbledore is a kind, whimsical, joy filled man. He knows laughter, but he also knows pain (the broken nose, we will finally learn, tells us this). He is a man of great depth, but he does not take his own depth too seriously. What a wonderful way to live.

One of my friends once said that though Socrates and Jesus never met, they would have been great friends if they had. I would suggest the same thing about Jesus and Dumbledore. Though the Gospels never tell us that Jesus laughed I have always imagined him as a man who could live honestly in both despair and joy. He could eat and drink and enjoy all that life offers in one moment, and in the next he could lift the suffering and self-tortured up out of their mire.

There are a great many things that can be said about Jesus, and I think that all of the true things we can say are very good, but my favorite thing about Jesus is what a wonderful human being he was. In much the same way that Dumbledore is the wizard, Jesus was (and is) the human.

Not surprisingly Jesus is also, like Dumbledore, seldom welcome in the bourgeois world that we inhabit. But, again like Dumbledore, he is here nevertheless.

Wise Justice…

Fred Clark has another great post over on Slacktivist (even if the title is a little bit on the nose). He questions, once again, the Bush administration’s so-called “just war” in Iraq and the potential for a just war against Iran. Bush and co. have consistently claimed that the US invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq were and are just. The reasons that I’ve heard usually have something to do with Weapons of Mass Destruction (or WMD-related weaponish-type kinds of programs) or the tyranny and aggression of Sadam Hussein’s totalitarian regime. Fred rightly notes that even if Bush’s claims about WMDs or Hussein’s tyranny are accurate (and we know now that the former claims were certainly not accurate by any stretch of the imagination), these still do not qualify for the traditional definition of a “just war.”*

One of the real troubles in attempting to wage a just war is that you need to be able to determine the potential damage the aggressor may cause, the likelihood of being able to avert that potential damage, and the possibility a war might actually cause more suffering than it averts. When determining whether or not a war is just you need a very important faculty. You need wisdom.

One of the kids in my youth group back in Regina once asked me about the difference between wisdom and intelligence. I gave the fairly pat answer that wisdom is the ability to apply intelligence correctly. He didn’t buy it, and rightly so. A better understanding of wisdom is found in the biblical Proverbs. Wisdom in Proverbs is a moral faculty. It is the ability to make not only good decisions, but right decisions.

The unjust invasion of Iraq is not only an intellectual failure (though it is that), it is first and foremost a moral failure. It is unwise and therefore unjust. George Bush has always been something of an enigma to me. On television he sounds, to be frank, like a bumbling idiot. But I don’t believe that a truly stupid person could be a governor and then a president. I do, however, believe that a fool could do those things. What the war in Iraq, and current American foreign policy in general, demonstrates is not that Bush and Cheney and their advisers are stupid. It demonstrates that they are fools.

*I’m pretty sure that his Catholic definition for a just war is actually Thomas Aquinas’ definition, but I don’t have any of Thomas’ works close at hand so I can’t be positive.