The power of words

November 4, 2009
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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 157 comments. Post your own now!

thrdgrd4ever said...
Nov. 29, 2009 at 8:22 pm
This beautifully written and insightful article gives credence to the idea that great writers who write incredible stories share a gift with their audience. Can a well written fictional story change our lives or impact us in a powerful way? Can it alter our thought processes and, as Joseph so eloquently stated, enhance our problem solving capabilities? The answer to both questions is an obvious yes! Joseph has proven with his passionate writing that a story meant for “children” can ... (more »)
Auburn Lions said...
Nov. 25, 2009 at 10:36 pm
Good work! You make your family and community proud. Good writing draws people in. You have elevated my interest in the Harry Potter books. Our children share your interests. Your essay sets an example for them to express themselves creatively and the power of writing. Thank you Joe!
vlcreative said...
Nov. 25, 2009 at 8:24 pm
Dear Joey, I was exceedingly impressed by your intellectual eruditeness. I empathaize with your lament over our contempoary societies lack of intellectual curiousity and creative problem solving. In your pursuit of lateral thinking please consult Mechanisms of the Mind, New Think, and Lateral Thinking all by Edward DeBono. Congratulations on a well written article.
JWHH said...
Nov. 25, 2009 at 11:31 am
I think the following paragraph stands out among many other parts in this essay. He is talking about the generational awakening based on this series of Harry Potter.
Well done and elaborate on this wonderful point. It is like a 1914 Generation in Europe that shared a sense of community and stood up against the War.
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,... (more »)
obinna said...
Nov. 25, 2009 at 9:46 am
Well written, good job!!! Keep it up
Shawzy said...
Nov. 24, 2009 at 7:03 pm
Excellent !!! Keep writing.
Zoom the Wonder Dog said...
Nov. 24, 2009 at 6:02 pm
I am blown away how well written this essay is. I have known this young man since he was an infant and he never said two words.... now he writes with such beauty and feeling...Well done Joeseph!!!
TomtheWonderDog replied...
Dec. 7, 2009 at 11:38 am
You stole my name!
erinjt said...
Nov. 24, 2009 at 7:34 am
too young to be so sagacious and so lucky to have such a warm memory
catherine713 said...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm
Keep writing; you've got talent!!!!
catlover1 said...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 5:36 pm
Great job! Very well written :)
ProWriter said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 8:29 pm
Outstanding piece! Insightful, fresh! Shows enthusiasm and passion for the world of words!!!
jetsfan88 said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 9:54 pm
Love it. Excellent article.
allie15 said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm
Great job! The content is great and the writing is even better!
schoolie said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm
This is an interesting, well written article.
turkey said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:21 pm
I loved this article by Joseph, very well writtn
Bellatrix said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm
Love this! Beautifully written!
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