Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Pussy willows in the wild

Do you buy yourself flowers?

I don’t. The frugal former farmgirl part of me is uncomfortable with impractical spending. Why spend money on a luxury that will die in a few days?

Praises be, I raised a city daughter who thinks differently. She willingly spends money on touches of beauty: plants with character, fresh flowers and unique throw pillows. (Frugal former farmgirl says, Throw pillows? Useless!)

three throw pillows, one with a Harry Potter Marauders' Map
Useless?

Last week my daughter brought home pussy willows.

Boom! She transported me back to my childhood farm near a wooded area where pussy willows grew wild. In my barn-chore gum rubber boots, I’d walk through the soggy marshland in the spring and run my fingers over the soft pussy willow buds.

I wondered how many people in our oh-so-urban society are lucky enough to have such a beautiful memory. I felt privileged and full of gratitude.

My daughter, spending her money so willingly, bought more than fresh flowers. She bought a long-forgotten cherished memory, an appreciation for my carefree childhood, and gratitude for how her different approach to life makes mine richer.

Those aren’t luxuries, and they won’t die in a few days.

Pussy willow buds

Pussy willows in the wild: Ontario Trees

Why I don’t boycott

the-sneetchesConsider this scenario:

The son of a wealthy family bullies a smaller, poorer child at school. The wealthy parents upon hearing of this say, “That’s not right. If that’s the way you’re going to behave, we’re taking away your cell-phone and computer.”

The son, accustomed to his luxuries, wants the use of his cell phone again, so he ceases bullying the child—when anyone is watching. Sometimes though, when no one is around and he know he can get away with it, he still shoves the boy into a locker or whispers “Loser” in his ear.

The wealthy boy lives without his cell phone for a while, but then his parents see improvement in his behaviour. Certain that things have changed for the better, they return his electronics to him. Life goes on.

But the wealthy son has not learned to have compassion for the smaller child. His behaviour changed for all the wrong reasons, and his relationship with his parents suffered because he fostered resentment against them in the meantime. And the child? He still feels like a loser. He watches over his shoulder constantly and fear clenches his stomach into knots every day when he walks to school. He doesn’t trust.

What comes of this? Two broken relationships, no change in the feelings of the perpetrator, and a damaged child setting off on a path in the opposite direction from healing.

This is why I don’t boycott.

Boycotts are punitive, not loving. They are a “Let’s fix this now” approach to problems that need “Let’s fix this for the long-haul” efforts. Forced resolutions to problems produce short-term satisfaction but create long-term damage.

[For example: The history of our First Nations peoples includes both forced segregation (reserves) and forced integration (residence schools), both of which failed spectacularly. The negative effects of those two approaches reverberate on, and on, and on . . .]

I sometimes hear, “The boycott worked to end apartheid in South Africa.” True enough, the punitive boycott did change the exterior actions of South Africans—when people are watching—but do you believe that racist sentiments vanished there? I don’t. I believe it’s too soon to say where the reverberations of that boycott will lead. In the arc of time, when people take action for financial reasons not compassionate reasons, the underlying negativity and resentments eventually re-surface when the commotion dies down and when the time is right. If you imagine a timeline of South African history and you place our 2013 as a dot in the middle with the emptiness of future stretching out beside it, what do you see on the future half of that line? I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I see lots of potential for racial tension, because the feelings haven’t changed, they’re just buried for the moment.

Let’s take a look at another boycott: Chick-fil-A. When COO Dan Cathy spoke out against same-sex marriage, activists promoted a boycott of the chain. What happened? People lined up to eat at the restaurant. Some of the people lined up to eat there didn’t like Cathy’s comments and they supported same-sex marriage, but they went there as a statement: “No one tells me where, or where not, to eat.” The result of this was a wash. Dan Cathy suffered no financial damage, and he didn’t change his feelings about same-sex marriage.

That’s another result of boycott: backlash. When the Roman Catholic church urged a boycott of Harry Potter books, sales went through the roof. The recent proposed boycott of Russian vodka did Vladimir Putin a favour. In Russia a majority of people believe that homosexuality is wrong so when he defends “the traditional Russian family,” his approval ratings go up.

Why am I writing about boycotts now? I’m a member of the United Church of Canada, and they have proposed a boycott of Israeli goods manufactured in occupied Palestine.

I am so proud of everything about my church, except that boycott. I love that they support love-based marriage and ordain females. I love that they discourage bottled water use. I love that they embrace progressive, evolving faith. But I don’t like the boycott. When the General Council of the United Church passed the motion which includes a directive “to give high priority to establishing a church-wide campaign of education and economic action directed against one or more settlement products that can be identified as produced in or related to the settlements or the occupied territories” and to encourage “members of the United Church to avoid any and all products produced in the settlements” I was, for the first time, ashamed of my church. Embarrassed. Why was my church, so loving in every other way, proposing a punitive action?

Imagine if the parents of that wealthy boy had found a way to awaken in their son compassion for the child he bullied, so that he could look that child in the eye and see himself. Imagine if same-sex couples, instead of avoiding Chick-fil-A, flocked to it and showed to Dan Cathy what love-based marriage is all about. Imagine if Roman Catholics read Harry Potter and realized how its theme of “act with love and resist evil” reverberates through the books. (Okay, that one’s already happened.)

There’s nothing like the deep joy of breaking through physical barriers of differences and finding the common ground. When we meet people so vastly different from ourselves that we can’t even imagine what common ground might look like, but then we do find the common ground, it’s thrilling.

The only long-term solution to oppression and violence comes when perpetrators look in the eyes of victims and sees themselves.

How can we make that happen in Israel and Palestine? In my opinion, a boycott is not the way. In my opinion, a boycott might produce short-term satisfaction, but it won’t do anything to change the root causes of the problem. It might even create backlash and have the opposite effect of what was intended. (I don’t even want a Soda Stream machine, but I’m still tempted to buy one now . . . )

I encourage you to read what you can, learn what you can, write to whomever you believe can foster compassion in the area. And buy whatever you want.

I want to be Hermione

I wrote this piece in November, 2011 in response to Bruce Sanguin`s post on his If Darwin Prayed blog:  “I want to be Jason Bourne.”  Yep, almost two years later, I still want to be Hermione.

__________________________

What woman in the media represents my ideals?

I love The Good Wife. Could I be Alicia Florrick? She’s smart, very good at her job, and ethical but willing to push the boundaries for the side of right. I like all of that. But there is the affair. My ideal woman would not do things she has to hide from her family. My ideal woman would not have to worry about what people will find on a search through her laptop. She just wasn’t quite right.

How about Penny from The Big Bang Theory? She’s beautiful, frank, and smarter than most people give her credit for. But an actress I am not, and I prefer if people don’t have to work so hard to figure out the brains behind the beauty.

Erin Brockovich? She’s smart and driven to pursue justice. But I’m just not comfortable with that much cleavage.

I ran through a long list of female role models that just didn’t feel right until I came to Hermione from Harry Potter. She’s the one:

  • Smart, and never tries to pretend otherwise
  • Beautiful, but not aware of it
  • Diligent worker
  • Good at what she does. The best. She saves Harry and Ron many times.
  • Relentless in her pursuit of the good
  • Brave in the face of danger
  • Loyal to her friends
  • Independent (Unlike Bella from that other horrible series, she doesn’t need a man to make her life complete.)

Hermione is what I would wish for the women of the world. Feminine, yes, but strong, smart, independent, right-seeking and capable.

Who do you want to be?

Strong women

Strong women (Photo credit: JPChamberland)

I want to be Hermione

I subscribe to Bruce Sanguin’s Evolutionary Christianity e-newsletter which links to his If Darwin Prayed blog. This week he wrote a post entitled “I want to be Jason Bourne.” I read it with interest and pondered it, but I don’t want to be Jason Bourne. I’m a woman.

Who would I want to be then? What woman in the media represents my ideals?

I love The Good Wife. Could I be Alicia Florrick? She’s smart, very good at her job, and ethical but willing to push the boundaries for the side of right. I like all of that. But there is the affair. My ideal woman should not do things she has to hide from her family. My ideal should not have to worry about what people will find on a search through her laptop. She just wasn’t quite right.

How about Penny from The Big Bang Theory? She’s beautiful, frank, and smarter than most people give her credit for. But an actress I am not, and I prefer if people don’t have to work so hard to figure out the brains behind the beauty.

Erin Brockovich? She’s smart and driven to pursue justice. But I’m just not comfortable with that much cleavage.

I ran through a long list of female role models that just didn’t feel right until I came to Hermione from Harry Potter. She’s the one:

  • Smart, and never tries to pretend otherwise
  • Beautiful, but not aware of it
  • Diligent worker
  • Good at what she does. The best. She saves Harry and Ron many times.
  • Relentless in her pursuit of the good
  • Brave in the face of danger
  • Loyal to her friends
  • Independent (Unlike Bella from that other horrible series, she doesn’t need a man to make her life complete.)

Hermione is what I would wish for the women of the world. Feminine, yes, but strong, smart, independent, right-seeking and capable.

Who do you want to be?

Harry Potter and the heart of good

What better time than Hallowe’en to write about magic and the battle between the forces of good and evil? Stephen Holmes, the acting head of divinity at St. Andrews University in Scotland, has good timing in that regard.

Earlier this week he endorsed Harry Potter—even called him Christ-like. Holmes hoped that the seal of approval of a respected theologian would open the minds of those who condemn the books as tools for promoting witchcraft.

I hope it helps.

The Harry Potter series has two powerful plus points. First, the books are a family experience. We read all seven books out loud together on long rides to the cottage. We laughed together and cried together, and I know many other families had a similar shared experience. Second, the overriding theme of the books is that good triumphs over evil, and love overpowers hate.

Hard to argue with that.

As we worked our way through the series, I wondered all along, “How is J.K. Rowling going to resolve this in a way that doesn’t involve Harry doing something evil?” I couldn’t imagine how Harry could remove Voldemort’s power without resorting to murder.

Isn’t that the way? When we face something evil, sometimes the only way that we can see our way out of it is doing something evil in return.

But J.K. Rowling didn’t take that road. In the end, Voldemort destroyed himself with his own evil rebounding back on himself. Good triumphed over evil; love overpowered hate.

We are Muggles, but, like Harry, we will often be tormented by Voldemorts in our lives.  We can follow Harry Potter’s example—place ourselves in the heart of good and see what happens.

Happy Hallowe’en!