Harry Potter and Democracy

One of the things J.K. Rowling gets so very right is that democracy is often untidy and always imperfect. For example, in Volume 5 of the Harry Potter series we see the Order of the Phoenix assemble to deal with Voldemort. And the Order is a bit chaotic, impractical, emotional, and confused a lot of the time. But they work together fairly well. Still, they are annoying since they seem so clueless. And that's the whole point. These are the Good Guys. But in order to confront evil they have to discuss, decide, squabble... and so on. Voldemort doesn't do that. He just issues orders and acts without consideration. The insight Rowling gives us is that democracy, where people actually care for each other and seek to do the best thing for everyone, is a scruffy, full-time job that can be tedious and is definitely slow. Dictatorship might look good for a few moments (they get things done, after all) but it is pretty repulsive if viewed for any length of time. It looks easy, decisive and business-like. Actually it's horrifically destructive of the human soul. Think about that when Trump makes his sweeping statements about what he's going to do "so fast it'll make your head spin", and when he makes unilateral declarations of any kind.

Say What?

Today I was driving along when I heard Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” on the radio. Naturally I sang along (don’t worry, I was alone in the car so no actual human beings were harmed by this activity). What I noticed was that I, an enthusiastic singer, wanted to smooth out the melody and make it nicer, gentler, than Dylan does. And that’s when I realized, again, what is going on. I wanted it to sound “nice” -- Dylan didn’t care if it sounded nice or not. Why? Because he had something to say that was far more important than a smooth tune. It was rough, it was vital, and it grabbed you in the guts. His voice was compelling. We all get tangled up in a gentle, smooth tune – and sometimes that means we forget to emphasize what needs to be said. What’s more important – a beautifully illuminated manuscript or the words it says? Plenty of poets and MFA graduates can produce a well-turned phrase; but can they say what needs to be said? Perhaps they get Tangled up in Blue.

When is Paper not Paper?

Every so often, of a hot evening, I like to fire up the charcoal grill. It makes for a pleasant outdoor experience and saves an already hot house getting hotter. People tend to be a tad different when they’re in a garden (even such a tangled one as mine) and that adds to the relaxed feel. Now, I used to happily crumple a single sheet of newspaper into the chimney device, pour charcoal in the top, and with one match and that paper I could start the coals. This is not possible now. The same trick done today produces merely a charred outline of the paper, which then extinguishes itself and fails to light anything. The reason is that paper is no longer what it was. Instead of wood pulp we now have some sort of clay material which does not burn, and – so my recycling friends tell me - is really hard to recycle. We may want to let that thought sink in. We try to be recyclers, but the game has changed, and what we’re recycling isn’t now amenable to the process. Now, I like trees, and I want to save them. What I don’t like is the creation of yet another substitute material which seems to be every bit as noisome as plastic, and every bit as hard to deal with. This is not progress, my friends.


Recently I've been enjoying reading about archaeology. A couple of websites exist that I like - one simply called The History Blog. This is not just idleness. By seeing what has been uncovered I'm reminded of just how long humans have been around, trying to figure out life, death, and everything in between. It also gives me a renewed awareness of how everything I do in my life will, most likely, fade and be forgotten within a very few years. It reminds me to seize the day. It nudges me to recognize that great cities and civilizations rise, and fall, and are forgotten, and that ours is no different. It reminds me that creating more love and harmony is the only thing worth doing.

A Parable

There’s a moment in “The Secret” when someone (I forget who) tells the story about how we want things our way. This is roughly what it says: A pilot was forced to crash land his plane in the Arctic and it seemed as if he was going to freeze to death. So he prayed to be rescued. After 4 days an Inuit happens by, drags him from the wreckage, and puts him on a sled. About a week later they get to a settlement with a hospital and he survives. When he was feeling better he was asked about his experience. He said that he had prayed to be saved, but ultimately he gave up on God. “But – you were saved,” said the interviewer. “Yes, but by a damn eskimo!” The point: if someone turns up to save your hide don’t worry about whether that person is what you expect, or has no language in common with you or smells of seal blubber. Be grateful. My point: Hillary may not be perfect in some people’s eyes, but that doesn’t mean she can’t get the job done right.


Listening to the speeches of the two rival candidates (yes, you know which ones) I was struck by several things. The first thing I listened for was motivation. Why were these people running for office? Knowing that would be important, I felt. Hillary went out of her way to say that she was inspired by her mother to become someone who serves the needs of others, because it is the right thing to do. She also stressed that we all have to work together. This is the language of the Monarch archetype - the person who seeks to enlist everyone in doing the best for the realm. This is one of the highest archetypes we can aspire to. This campaign is not about her; it's about what we can all achieve if we elect her and get working. Trump, by comparison, talks about making us "great" and that this is something he alone can achieve for us. He wants us to be passive and let him "lead". He is, no doubt, motivated by a desire to be great, as great as his now deceased father. Yet this is the shallowest of motivations. It is the language and the thinking of the least developed of all the archetypes, the Orphan. Motivation is pretty vital. Think about this.


I read, with sadness, so many comments from distressed Bernie supporters. They're angry, they want to sue the DNC for the return of their contributions, they want to vote for the Green Party, or even for Trump. I'd suggest we need a little self discipline, here. Defeat the fascist Trump FIRST and then overhaul the electoral system. The house is on fire, people. Let's not argue about whether or not we have the right to spray it with firehoses or if the hoses themselves were made with sustainable resources. Let's put the fire out.

What’s on your mind?

Sometimes I go to Facebook and I find myself wondering what on earth I can post. You know, as if it’s some kind of competition to see who can get the cutest cat pictures or the most exciting looking plate of food excess. And when I’m in that space I can think of nothing. My brain shrivels. What I’ve learned is that at such moments I can do better. I don’t have to play anyone’s game. I just have to be me. And the best way of being me is to remember some event during the day that made me happy. Suddenly I discover I’m full of things to say. I overflow with the moments that made my heart feel full and transformed my day. I discover I have had sensations that will stay with me (I hope) until my dying gasp. I’m in contact with love and the wondrous, fleeting moments of life. Pay attention, those moments say, or you might miss us.

Sneaker Shopping

The other day I had to buy new sneakers as my old ones had split along the side. So I went to my local sneaker store with my two shopping savvy fashionista side-kicks, Zoe (3 and 1/2) and Ellie (18 months). I know I can rely on their good sense. It was a nice big store, with wide aisles and good music playing, plus big mirrors so you could admire yourself in whatever new sneakers you were trying on. Now, when you're a very small person under the age of 4 big mirrors are immensely attractive, and music is, well, just great. Pretty soon I'm dancing with my two little personal shoppers, checking our moves in the mirror, and squealing with delight. Assistant : Can I help you sir? Me: Just trying out these shoes for fit. Zoe: Dance with us! Dance with us! Assistant leaves looking thoroughly fed up. The sneakers passed the test; Ellie liked the colors and Zoe liked the laces, and I liked the way they brought out my inner dance. At the cash the same fed up assistant waited. Leaving, I thanked her for her patience and I smiled. And, after all -- if they didn't want us to dance then why did they play the music?

Through the eyes of Children

Zoe ("I'm three" she says, and she holds up three fingers) has gained in confidence and seems no longer to be particularly interested in toys. That is to say, the conventional doll's house, the pink plastic "child's computer" and such like highly crafted items don't interest her that much. She's much more likely to say "can we go outside?" and then frolic in the garden, with imaginative games that involve picking up pine cones or, indeed, almost anything - and she calls this "picking the corn" or "collecting apples", or "going shopping". I'm hoping that this shift away from the specificity of things and towards the realms of the imagination (where anything can be anything you wish, for now) will stay with her forever. For things are not reality. How you look at them is your reality, and what you make of them is very much up to you. We can learn from this.