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The power of words


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In reflecting on the events of my life that have impacted me, I returned to the night of August 1, 2006. I found myself in Row G of Radio City Music Hall in New York City sitting by my mother, not at all tired, although we had flown from Las Vegas to Syracuse the day before, and my family had driven five hours to the city for “An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp,” a charity event with readings by three authors. The excitement rushing through me kept me awake and alert; I was standing and applauding a tiny blonde woman with amazing silver snake shoes as she prepared to read.

The Harry Potter series was my gateway drug into my intellectual puberty. I was so fascinated by the Harry Potter world that my mother began taking me to academic conferences focused on the books. Beginning with The Witching Hour in 2005, through Lumos, Prophecy, Portus, and Azkatrz in 2009, I have attended presentations about the Latin etymology of terms and spells, the mythical tales of the artifacts, and the idea of literary alchemy. These books opened my eyes to the whole world, and to knowledge itself. They were the stimulus that kept my brain working over the summers. More importantly, they helped me adopt the philosophy useful in school and beyond, that there is always another way to do something, or to perceive an issue. With uncertainty and doubt, comes innovation and new ways to look at problems that may result in new, different, faster and easier solutions. And all this came from a little “magic,” from a book that many people see as a series for children.

Along with fans and students from many countries, I attended lectures about Ms. Rowling’s ability to beautifully craft the saga, with every painstakingly small detail connected to something else. For example, Dr. John Granger, a “Potter Pundit” who has written several critical and religious-based analyses of the books, reminded the audience that Harry’s (and his mother Lily’s) green eyes owe a literary debt to Dante’s Beatrice. From Jonathan Swift to Chaucer to Dickens and Austin, I learned that like all great books, Rowling’s stories fostered a connection across mind, body, and soul. Although the series has been criticized by those who believe it corrupts children and teaches witchcraft, I was able to hear discussions by those who purported that, like the Bible, these books teach wonderful messages if one goes beyond the literal level to the allegorical. It is my generation’s shared text; all college freshmen are familiar with the stories, and that gives us a set of common beliefs and ideas that can serve as a springboard to new learning.

As I sat surrounded by avid fans and scholars of John Irving, Steven King, and J.K. Rowling, it gave me hope that this country will not be consumed by the mundane. With so much emphasis on physical aspects of life, and the material and sexual focus of the messages thrown at us by the media, it would be easy to become jaded or depressed. But I am not worried. I have been surrounded by 6000 people, all of whom paid good money, not for a sporting event or a concert, but to hear authors read their work. I have evidence that words on a page can change not only my life, but the world.



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This article has 156 comments. Post your own now!

KathyVM said...
Mar. 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm
Love this essay. You were lucky to see these authors read and your essay shows you appreciate it.
 
SamIam said...
Mar. 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm
You are so lucky! Thanks for writing about it - sounds cool.
 
xMeadowxThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Feb. 25, 2010 at 7:14 pm
I'm jealous. I really need to be working on my writings more but my time is all consumed in boring other school work such as math.
 
MacGruber said...
Feb. 22, 2010 at 10:09 am
Great essay! Why haven't you written anything else>
 
Dorothy said...
Feb. 19, 2010 at 6:47 pm
Nice work. I have never read Harry Potter books, but this is certainly well written praise.
 
Rebecca said...
Feb. 17, 2010 at 6:41 pm
This is awesome! You really made your literary adventure come to life!
 
Yanks said...
Feb. 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm
I really like the way your writing captures your excitement and your feelings. Keep writing!
 
TechMan said...
Feb. 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm
Interesting - you are very favorable in your writing. Have you ever had to defend the novels against those who think they are evil?
 
SaintsFan said...
Feb. 8, 2010 at 9:15 pm
This is a great essay. It really captures the spirit of love of literature. Well written!
 
cathyjets said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 5:35 pm
Great essay ----- so descriptive and positive.
 
SoccerPlayer said...
Feb. 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm
Awesome! I'm so jealous you got to see JKR! Lucky! Good essay!
 
Prof M said...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm
This is very well written in terms of description and feelings. Hope you get in to the college of your choice.
 
MacLover said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 10:42 am
Isn't it cool how Harry Potter has not lost it's impact even though the series is technically "over?" I wonder if someone will write something like this ten years from now......
 
TipTop said...
Jan. 26, 2010 at 10:20 pm
Keep writing. Why don't you have any other pieces?
 
CCCC said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm
Great essay! Love the word and phrase choice.
 
Hermione said...
Jan. 24, 2010 at 9:36 pm
Well written and fun to read. Good job!
 
TechMan said...
Jan. 23, 2010 at 8:49 pm
I came back to reread this piece. I was struck again by the fact that reading and writing are so intertwined. Too often we separate these two. Great connections here.
 
ColtsFan said...
Jan. 22, 2010 at 9:03 am
This is an interesting essay. I was one of those teachers who poo-pooed the Harry Potter hype, but to read an eloquent essay describing the impact makes me reconsider.
 
SpEdTeacher said...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm
Wow! I looked on YouTube for clips of the Radio City event because of your descriptions! Seems like it was great!
 
MacLover said...
Jan. 18, 2010 at 5:58 pm
Great essay! I wonder if others would have the same reaction to series like Lord of the Rings. I know people have this reaction to favorite television series - is that bad power?
 
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