I'm going through a massive Harry Potter phase right now which makes me wonder about a whole lot of stuff I've never really figured out. I consider myself a part of the Harry Potter generation (as opposed to say the Star Wars generation, or the Flower Power one, or Elvis, or some other cultural marker-related age bracket...) and it seems entirely regular for people to define themselves through something that they feel gives their life more structure and meaning. And often that's a movie, book, musician, celebrity, political figure, artist... But what does that mean, really? These are all such haphazard elements added to our lives through chance encounters and the contributions they make to our states of being are so variable, how can we judge them as so important? Especially considering the gravity of so many other occurrences in our lifetimes and the comparatively lesser attention paid to them. All the while the contemporary culture of the day, or even retrieved relics of bygone eras, are- sometimes solely- invoked to characterise our existence. I relate the feelings I have toward Harry Potter to my childhood, the people around me, and the messages and morals I feel are relevant to my consciousness and lifestyle. But in a hundred years we'll all be dead and what will it mean then? Why is it so important to me to define myself through this thing that's so irrelevant in the Grand Scheme of Things?
This is not a new question. I think most people have wondered about things like this from the time they fully comprehended their own mortality, for some of us it wasn't for a long while and for others like my younger sister it was when they were around six. And there is that ever-lingering question in everything that we do; why else the emphasis on not procrastinating, and being happy, or experiencing love? We are constantly told to spend our time wisely. Nothing is precious unless there is a finite amount of it. So it is curious to me that we choose to spend our time so differently, or even more interestingly, in the same way. If you added together all the hours people my age had spent reading Harry Potter or watching the film adaptations (not to mention talking about it), you could create a lifetime for every character mentioned in the series.
Is it positive or negative that something so superficial- a woman's imaginative narrative- has absorbed so much of our time, captured our attention so much more than fleetingly? Should I be happy or proud of being obsessed with another person's words and mind for years? The inevitable follow-on from worrying about this is; if not a children's story, what is worth spending my thoughts and moments on? If I'm worried about being remembered as part of the group who worshipped tales of a bespectacled wizard, what would I feel more comfortable with?
And I don't have an answer to that. If it comes to leaving this life knowing my contribution was as yet another voice praising J.K. Rowling, even at nineteen or ninety when I should surely have grown out of reading about Harry's antics, I think I'll be satisfied with that. I don't know what the meaning of life is or how I was supposed to spend mine, but the human experience is so complex and the desire, shared by the Bronte sisters and Virginia Woolf and even this far, far less brilliant girl, to define oneself by the writing you adore, feels too comfortable and comforting for me to deny. When thinking about all the great deeds I could be doing with my days, I find motivation to wax poetic about Potter pandemonium far more readily than that to do anything else.
And, mortal or not, who am I to deny nature?