Monday, September 06, 2010

Mirror of Erised

In the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry is wandering through his boarding school/castle one night and stumbles across a very curious mirror. Instead of seeing just himself in the mirror, he sees himself surrounded by relatives, with his mother and father at the forefront. For those ten or so remaining people in the world who haven't seen the movie or read the book, this is very strange because Harry's parents died just a few months after his first birthday. The only home he has ever known is that of his mother's sister, a woman who is vicious and shallow and cares nothing for Harry or his freakish magical nature.

Harry quickly wakes his best friend from their dorm so that he might show Ron his parents. Ron, however, the youngest of six boys whose greatest fears involve failure and wondering if his mother only had him because she craved a daughter, sees something else entirely. He sees himself as a Hogwarts Head Boy and leading the Gryffindor Quidditch team to the House Cup. For you American Muggles out there, that is the equivalent of being student body president and the captain of the football team when they take state. Ron hopefully asks if the mirror shows the future, but Harry reminds him that his parents are dead.

The boys realize that the mirror doesn't actually show what you are or might become, but what you want the most. Ron thinks the mirror is cool, but Harry gets a bit obsessed with it. He goes back several times until the school's headmaster finds him gazing at it late one night. He explains a little bit about the Mirror of Erised, and how it shows nothing more or less than the deepest wish of your heart. A perfectly contented man would see only himself. He tells Harry that men have wasted away their lives in front of the mirror, longing for an illusion. He also explains that the mirror will be moved, and he implores Harry not to go looking for it.

And in typical JK Rowling fashion, where a name is never just random, Erised is a palindrome of Desire. In the movie version, they went so far as to create an engraving across the top, which is just more information about the mirror printed backwards. It is a rather tender and pathetic scene, film-wise, the 11 year-old Daniel Radcliffe is adorable and the mother in every woman wants to adopt Harry at that moment.

As I was watching it the other day (I had my Young Women here for a sleepover--they had an HP marathon to get ready for The Deathly Hallows and watched all SIX of them in a row), I wondered what I might see in the Mirror of Erised.

I'm almost embarrassed to say my first thought.

NO, it was not for me to be in a room filled with really fine, milky European chocolate. Sheesh. How shallow do you think I am?

Okay, pretty shallow. I saw myself standing at a podium in a roomful of librarians while I accepted the Newbery Medal with a speech that was witty, self-deprecating and perfectly charming. I was wearing a really great outfit.

But then the picture changed and I saw myself tenderly cradling a tiny bundle wrapped in pink.

A third picture came on the heels of that--the Jedi grown into handsome men in the image of their father, dressed as missionaries.

Other pictures followed that of a more sacred and eternal nature.

Still, isn't it clear that I moved from self outward, rather than the other way around? Or skipping the self bit entirely? The last several days I have been cognizant of the thought that my actions aren't always reflective of my deepest desires. Even the selfish ones.

I'll be home a lot over the next couple of weeks. School has started again and I'm going to make a concentrated effort to potty train the Youngling. Nearly nine years of changing diapers may come to an end in just two weeks. No doubt there are many of you out there who did your time for far longer. I salute you. A single child might use upwards of 10,000 diapers and pull-ups before being fully trained. Do the math. Or don't, it might just make you cry.

Anyway, during my couple of weeks of being at home time, I am giving myself a break from Internet technology, as much as is practical. It will be a good time for me to figure out the things that I want the most, and then spend my time accordingly.

What do YOU see in the mirror? And if you only see yourself, please share with us the secret to your contentment.


Cathy said...

At first, I couldn't think of what was in my mirror. Some "nice things"--living near an ocean again. Having my present uncertainty about our upcoming move (to a location not near an ocean) resolved. A friend who is geographically close.

Then I realized that I have what I used to want. And it's pretty good stuff--married in the temple to a wonderful man, three kids, a life where I'm useful and able to choose my own path.

What I really want now is the grace to be happy with what I wanted before. Perhaps to keep wanting it? Seeing it as desirable on the hard days? Because I know I'd be devasted and desolate if it were gone.

Jenny said...

One of my VERY favorite parts of the HP series! And I love talking about it. I'm hopeful that for me, the image will keep changing--to signify a desire for growth in many areas of my life--I don't want to plop myself in my happy place and remain content. There is too much to learn! to do! to see!... Enjoy your time unplugged.

AmyJane said...

I love this. I need to think about it for awhile. I think I'm kind of in the same place as Cathy, where I feel like, at least on the outside, I have what I wanted for so many years. And yet....I'm not always as thrilled to have it as I thought I would be. I still feel like I'm missing a peice or twelve to my puzzle as well.