Expecto Patronum*

  The headline of a recent Daily Mail from London tells us that: “Richard Dawkins warns Harry Potter could have ‘negative effects’ on children”.  Dawkins is a recently retired professor from Oxford, scientist, and author of best seller The Selfish Gene.  The book first came out in 1976 and has sold over a million copies in twenty-five different languages.

  It is a very interesting look at evolution holding that the theory is best explained or understood from the point of view of a gene.  They function alone or in combination with others with the sole purpose of ensuring their own replication.  This usually, but not always, works to the benefit of the particular organism in which a gene exits. 

  An example of a case in which it does not is that of a male praying mantis in search of a mate.  You probably know that the female usually eats the male after they’ve done the dirty.  Too bad for him fer sure, but his genes made it to the pool whatever his consort might have had for lunch.

  So why in the world would he worry about Harry Potter?  As I’ve said (way) above, there are fundamentalists of all sorts of stripes.  Indeed, Dawkins has been accused of attempting to establish a religion built around evolution.  Being a prominent and very public atheist, he makes a very odd bedfellow for those mustering the clerical assault on Hogwarts.

  Book bannings and burnings are nothing new of course.  In fact those ashen pages make quite an august group.  Leaves of Grass, Huckleberry Finn, Ulysses, and Civil Disobedience (!) just to name a few in English.  Why not Cinderella, Snow White, and the Wizard of Oz?  Hey, what about the witches in Macbeth?  “Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble…”  Hmmm. I’m gonna guess that those who get worked up about Harry Potter haven’t made it to Shakespeare.

  Kids learn valuable lessons from fairy tales and other fiction.  And are OK at reality testing.  In his National Book Award winning (1977) The Uses of Enchantment psychologist Bruno Bettelheim wrote: “a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious… It is here that fairy tales have unequaled value, because they offer new dimensions to the child’s imagination which would be impossible for him to discover as truly on his own.” 

  The problem with fundamentalist adults, it has long seemed to me, is that the words that leave their lips express desperate attempts to convince themselves that the doubts lurking deep in their unconscious are unfounded.  And as Bettelheim continues: “When the unconscious material is repressed and its content denied entrance into awareness, then eventually the person’s conscious mind will be partially overwhelmed by derivatives of these unconscious elements, or else he is forced to keep such rigid, compulsive control over them that his personality may become severely crippled.”

  They get stuck and never take up such important tomes as the one my thoughtful (and well yes perceptive) brother gave me for Christmas: The Encyclopedia Of Immaturity.  There are approximately 240 entries.  I’m already to page 18 which helps me brush up on “How to Make Noises Under Your Arm”.  I’m trying to get each lesson down before turning the page, but I couldn’t help noticing that “The Case Against Chores”, “Here are Your Lifetime Goals”, “Be a Stapler Artiste”, “Do the Bubblegum Nose Bubble”, and “The Cas Aginst Gud Spelg” lie ahead.

  My wife said it was the perfect gift for me.  Also that my brother is better looking than am I as well as much handier.  She hasn’t laughed at my new facility with the brachial noisemaker. Jeesh. I’ll get even once I master “How to Be A Rubber Band Ninja Warrior” and “How to Make an Air Puff Annoyer”.       

*Expecto Patronum is a spell first used in the Harry Potter book Prisoner of Azkaban.  According to Wikipedia it “Conjures an incarnation of the caster’s innermost positive feelings such as joy and hope…”

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