I have spent the last three weeks rambling about my thoughts as I reread The Four Loves, The Mind of the Maker, and An Experiment in Criticism. It has been a busy week since last Friday and to my shame I have not read as much as I’d like to have. That being said, I do not want to neglect my post or the promise that this month was themed around my ramblings on these books.
The Power of the Idea in the form of the Word is still making its rounds in my head. Sayers spends a good deal of time on this subject and rightly so. Writing is a powerful tool and communicates not just stories, but ideas … revolutions … religion … war … hate … redemption.
I have to ask myself, what am I communicating? What Idea am I putting into Words that will have Power with a mind?
It is dreadful to think what the wrong words, wrong ideas will do to a weak mind. It is exhilaration to think of what the right word, right ideas will spark in the right mind. It is a heavy burden for an author to consider.
We see this power in the reaction to Harry Potter. There were so many people who were for the books, against the books, who praised them, who cursed them…the criticism goes on and on. There is power in the ideas that Rowling wrote. Magic. Something that we all fear and/or desire. But I think that those who get caught up in the debate about magic miss something. They miss the real issue of her books – Death. Or rather the fear of Death and conquering that fear by facing it with grace and humility. Magic is the foil that Rowling uses to deal with a more powerful, more real concept that many of us don’t want to think about or consider. Rowlings’s heroes are able to live full and happy lives because they face Death with humility and acceptance. This is a lesson for all of us – the Power in the Idea.
However, going back to the concept of Magic, I must ask the question, does the use of magic detract from the message? I still know of people – good people, whose opinions I trust and admire – who dislike the books on the grounds of magic. I have had many an argument with friends and family on this topic: is magic within a fantasy story good or bad? I heard/read the news articles about the kids that were snooping into real magic/dark arts and things because they had read about it in Harry Potter. Do I blame the books for putting the Idea into their heads, or is there a greater issue here? I read the books, I heard about magic, but I did not go off and try to do magic in the real world. I suppose I had read/heard enough about magic to know that within the confines of the pages magic was a medium to be respected and outside of the pages, magic was a force to be feared and avoided.
Magic is dangerous and very real. It is not something any one should tamper with. There is no “good” magic in the real world. There is the power of God and there is the power of devils. And the Bible is very clear about this subject.
Yet, I think of Tolkien and Lewis and how they used “magic” in their worlds. Gandalf is a wizard and he wields power. In Narnia, Aslan talks about the Deep Magic that created the world. These are arguably good forces in the stories. I suppose what I must consider is not the means but the Idea behind the means. What do these forces in the book represent and what are they trying to teach? Just like in Harry Potter, the magic is a foil to the greater concept of Death and how we deal with the notion of dying.
I am still not sure where I stand on the issue about the use of magic in writing and the fear of the implications in the real world. It is the weight that a writer must bear as he/she thinks about what they are writing, why are they writing, and what are they ultimately communicating to their readers.