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  • Armand Inezian

Can magic be boring? Absolutely! Just apply human nature.



This year, after being prompted by my daughter, I finally got around to reading the Harry Potter series. I know that I read it 20 years too late!


Overall, I liked it, but what I really want to talk about is how J.K. Rowling has (inadvertently?) captured a basic characteristic of human nature in Harry's schooling, the characteristic of becoming jaded.


Here's the thing, in the story Harry Potter suffers a terrible upbringing. He is underfed, bullied, and generally dismissed and maliced by his aunt and uncle's family. Then, in that first book, something amazing happens! He learns that magic is real and- amazingly- he is invited to wizard school. His whole life is about to change. He is going to learn spells that defy the basic laws of physics. He is going to discovers mysteries of the Universe! He's going to immerse himself in the sorcerous world.


Amazing right?


Except… Except a few months into his schooling, the glow starts to fade. It turns out that learning magic is tedious, difficult, and requires repetition and practice. It turns out that some magic teachers are big jerks. It isn't long before Harry is annoyed at his classes, distracted. He and Ron wind up copying notes from Hermione. Could it be that magic school itself is boring? In fact, Harry's favorite part of magic school is sports. His true comfort zone is Quidditch, so in wizarding terms, he's a jock!

As a parent of school age kids who sometimes complain about school, this element of the story stands out to me.


I don't think that Rowling set out to analyze or even touch on this theme specifically. My guess (and it's only a guess) is that she basically took the idea that kids find school boring and just went with it, but the idea is there anyway. Either accidentally or on purpose, we see a fundamental truth of human nature revealed in the pages of this series.


And, in a way, we all are as jaded as Harry Potter. We live in a world where magic is almost real. We don't have flying carpets, but we have giant, metal rocket-gliders that can take you thousands of miles in an afternoon. We don't crystal balls, but we have cell phones that let us talk to (and see) almost anyone on the planet in an instant. And we don't need death curses--- do we? --- because (well) we have guns.


The list goes on!

Imagine a small box that can quickly warm your dinner!

Imagine a book that is only a single screen, able to rearrange the words over and over again!

Imagine a camera that can fly over your head!

Imagine small animated discs that clean and scrub your floors!

Imagine a chariot that pulls itself and that activates using only some liquid!


Our ancestors of previous centuries would be amazed if they could travel through time and see the near-magic inventions of today, or at least they would be amazed for about a month and then, like Harry Potter, they would slowly grow jaded, until magic school is just school.

Maybe what we need, instead of all this magical technology, is a fresh set of eyes.

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