Joyous, Beautiful, and Free

Written by Boze Herrington

I’ve always been impressed that Harry Potter wasn’t slightly more dysfunctional. In spite of the fact that he spent ten years of his life beneath the stairs within his wretched aunt and uncle’s house, you must admit he turned out rather well.

I have a feeling that it has a lot to do with his ability to face the evils in his life and handle his emotions properly. The reason I enjoy the Potter books so much is not because of all the magic (which is slightly mechanistic), but because his feelings and experiences are so intensely vivid and so real.

For a fantasy novel, it’s a great deal more realistic than the works of Joel Osteen, who is living in a dream-world all his own.

There are far too many problems with “Your Best Life Now” for me to write about it here, though any cursory skimming of the pages should suffice to give you an idea. My favorite part was when he wrote about his feelings following his father’s death. At first, he tells us, he was very sad. For several days he skulked about the house.

But then he realized that he needed to get over it.

According to Mr. Osteen, living in our suffering is a sin because it keeps us from appreciating all the joy of God. Since God desires our happiness, we need to shun the wicked emotions such as grief and sorrow that can keep us from a Godly life.

This is utter nonsense, and I worry for the long-term health and happiness of Joel Osteen.

I don’t worry at all about Harry, though, primarily because of the manner in which Dumbledore consoled him following the death in the fourth novel.

“If I thought I could help you,” he says gently, “by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened.”

For much of my own life, I was more of an Osteen than a Dumbledore, I’m sad to say. It seemed to me that there was happiness in everything, if only we could find it out. What’s more, a number of my past experiences were so unfortunate that I continually wondered why it was that everybody found the Dursleys so detestable.

I’ve come to find that when a child’s first experiences are almost wholly negative, the child’s first reaction is to shut off all of their emotions. They begin to think that it would be much better to deny their pain than go on living in it when to live is misery. But in the case of many people, what this does is merely to delay the day of reckoning. We have to face our demons in the end, and we can put it off as long as we would like, but in the meantime they’ll destroy our lives and ruin every chance that we might have at love or meaningful relationships.

You’ll grow up numb to pain and human sympathy; unable to sustain romantic love for very long; continually running from the people who would love you most because you cannot handle love.

I think that Wormtongue says it best: “Oh, but you are alone. Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, in bitter watches of the night? When all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you. A hutch to trammel some wild thing in.”

Most people who are in this situation aren’t aware of it. The first step out of the cave is recognizing that you have a scarred and broken heart; that there are depths of pain and feeling deep inside of you you’ve never known about; and that the days are over when you could have handled it all on your own.

The real world is the world outside the cave, the world of love and feeling, pain and bitter-sweetness, longing and remorse. And in the end, I think the only thing that rescued Frodo from becoming Gollum was this: that when the burden grew too much for him to bear, he had a Samwise there to carry him.

The reason why the old tales still have power to affect us deeply is because they speak primarily about reality: the ordinary, Muggle world which we inhabit starts to look a little like a mythic landscape when we gain real friends, and when we know real suffering and when we find the bravery to face our deepest darknesses and fears.

And have you heard the cry of the seagulls? Have you seen the light? That is the land of pain and growth and love and of the highest human bliss. And are you willing to begin the journey from the cave? The world is waiting there for you.

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