Great stories have a way of making me reflect on my life, remember how it has been and think about how it is and hopefully will be. I’m here on the couch supposed to be working on my project, but instead I’m listening to my friends watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but the story brings me close to tears. Why?
I guess I relate to Harry. Of course, that’s the point, right? But when he suffers through terrible things, I’m reminded of the ones I’ve experienced. I’ve never seen a friend murdered in a graveyard, but from time to time my heart, my spirit, have been murdered within me. I’ve seen people do terrible things, even do terrible things to me, and I’ve watched people suffer for years without reprieve, only to escape in the end through violent death. At some point, the combined trauma breaks you, tears your soul in pieces. You’re haunted by the knowledge that such terrible things happen, not just in the abstract sense in which wars and famines occur in distant times and places, but in a sense so real and immediate and personal that it overwhelms you. Sometimes, when you look at yourself in the mirror, you can see it in your eyes—you can see the darkness, the memories pushing themselves painfully to the surface like a festering sore on your skin—and you know that you’re different, and that something fundamental went wrong somewhere along the way to deprive you of the peace that everyone else seems to enjoy and that seems your natural right, but that ever escapes you.
I’m sure Harry would see that on occasion in his own eyes. And yet, he, and I, and everyone taken so cruelly from safety to dwell in the path of fear, go forward. And in the real world, life doesn’t stop for your wounds to heal, and no Dumbledore ex machina comes to save the day, to tell you how wonderful you are and explain why everything had to happen the way it did. Nobody sits you down and asks you how you feel about it all, asks you whether your heart is dying inside of you and what it’s like to hurt so much you can hardly bear it. You just stumble onward, alive but paralyzed, and your heart turns off to protect you from the future terrors of misty graveyards looming so surely on life’s horizon. But, if that stilled heart never starts to beat again, and you can’t love or feel or live your life, then Voldemort wins. Don’t let the Dark Lord win.
There must be a way, somehow, to come back to life, to awake from the protective slumber into which your heart and mind have placed you. When will the world seem safe enough for the real self to emerge and stay in control, never to retreat again into the recesses of the soul? I think that, for me, the day is coming. Actually, in many ways, it’s already here. The potential for healing is as great as the potential for hurt, and someday—maybe today—it just might be healing’s turn. But that, as they say, is another story altogether.