Sunday, August 14, 2011

archetypes and magic

Well, it's finally over. After all these years, much hoo-ha and excitement, I finally saw the last Harry Potter movie. I became fascinated with the books after seeing kids queueing on the news to pick up their copy of the third book. As a lover of children's literature, I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I began at the beginning (where all stories start). I was hooked. Since then I have been one of those people pre-ordering my copy of the latest tome, and then rapturously enjoying each film as they helped drive the hype.

But here I am, finally at the end. I wanted to let all the fuss die down, so Peter and I caught a session at a small cinema on saturday afternoon. Strapped in with my choc-top and a hanky, I was ready to delve into the wonderful escapist world and see the final showdown I had imagined when I read the book. I sat there with tears streaming, similarly to reading the book a few years ago. Heart pounding, body trembling and heart aching I watched as the boy wizard confronted his fate like the hero we knew him to be. I adored it.

When I finished reading the last book, I began to become interested in the theory of archetypes. Many people dismiss the Harry Potter series merely as being ideas pinched from many other stories or myths. I've always found this insulting and short sighted. The idea of archetypes is that most great stories all have similar themes/lessons/characters etc. These are the stories that have been told throughout time. They resonate with us because they speak of the human condition, or are perhaps lessons to be learned. Does it really matter that the hero's quest has been played out in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Alien, Star Wars etc? It's easy to pick the similarities, but this makes them no less wonderful stories.

I just did a quick search of the internet and found a few interesting links, to pages about 'how to' write fiction using archetypes, a book on Jungian archetypes, and mythological archetypes in Harry Potter. This shows that those familiar themes and stories, whether they resonate through psychology or literature, all play a part in our collective culture. Call me a nerd, but I find this interesting! Perhaps it's also because I love great storytelling, and enjoy getting swept into other worlds.

After seeing the film I was contemplating a few things. If we follow the archetypes, I guess one important lesson we learn is about good and evil. Right and wrong. The best woven story tapestry will show that this is not simply black and white, but grey at times. Harry - Good, Voldemort - Bad, Snape - ? Well, you just had to wait to find out. So how do we measure this in real life? My workplace has been going through much upheaval, with bad behaviour by managers and imminent redundancies, resulting in a toxic and unhappy environment. I know that many of us feel like we are 'fighting the good fight' and preferring to band together for support and try to keep our personal integrity intact. But what if the managers think their fight is the righteous one? Not everyone can be right and on the side of good. The bad guys don't always wear black. I guess its me trying to make sense of people who see the world, human behaviour and interactions so vastly different from myself.

And what of the riots in England? Where do those important life lessons and sense of personal integrity go to in a mob situation? For me this highlights the importance of these life lesson, and timeless stories. It is a reminder to be true to ourselves, and remember that sometimes in life the journey will require sacrifice and hardship. We are lucky to have good and loyal friends at our side, a mentor to guide us, and much to be learned. I guess that's why I sobbed in the cinema. Harry Potter has taught me that a world with love and friendship is more important than power; that true friends are to be treasured, and that sometimes in life there are things worth fighting for. And this is why I will read these books and watch these movies over and over again throughout my life. As a touchstone for all I hold dear.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Greetings friends. Well, a lot has been happening in the World of Hurt world. I might get to writing about some of it later. Yes, believe it or not, there are somethings so personal that even I'm not ready to write about them here. Anyhoo...on to what I will share with you today...

A few weeks ago a group of work friends and I went for drinks. Life has been busy for us all and we've not had a chance for a catch up for months. So dinner and drinks were had at a local pub near work. In sitting around the table, one person talked about her depression and how unhappy she was with her life. In talking this through with her I was struck by something. As I looked around the table I realised that the other five of us had taken giant leaps. We'd all faced really hard decisions and changed our lives. One friend had taken a voluntary redundancy from work and gone to be a full time student. The rest of us had all left relationships we were in. Very interesting as I guess it's more common for the man to want out, but we'd all been the one's to change our situations. I have to say I was so thrilled to be surrounded by brave women.

I also attended a forum on campus on e-learning. One of the speakers, an academic from the architecture faculty talked about risk. He saw his role as talking colleagues through ideas and assessing the risks involved. This was the only way to foster innovation. To understand that mistakes are an important part of learning, and that we need to know how to manage fear. So we can 'throw ourselves off the precipice and have the trust that we will be supported to land on our feet'. This blew my mind. I've often described leaving my old relationship as a huge leap of faith into the unknown. No guarantees. But it was agony getting to the point of leaping.

I guess I realised that I was unhappy where I was, and things were so bleak before I had the guts to change. Change is hard and painful, but it feels better than the alternative. The academic described risk management as 'understanding the risks you should take'. And as I think of my friends I understand that is what we've all done. This is of course, no assurance that life will work out how you hope. Our lives are different, happier than where they were, but not perfect. And perhaps that is the reality. Everyone wishes things were different. But do any of us ever get the perfect picture of how life looks in our dreams? I'm guessing not, for most people.

So what exactly am I yammering on about? I guess the upshot is, that life is hard. It's never perfect. But maybe sometimes we need to take risks to see if we can get a bit closer to what makes us happy. But to also find ourselves in a place where we are supported, to enable us to land on our feet. Come what may. To find a way to be happy with what we have, if things don't go to plan. Fear can stop us from doing so much in life. Fear can be a warm, comfortable prison. It's easier to stick with the knowns, than face the unknowns. But perhaps we need to breed a culture of risk taking and resilience. That way, maybe we'll be better placed to deal with whatever life throws at us. As the academic said, we should 'learn to manage fear, and help those others who can't'. One step at a time.