Harry Potter fans unite! I’ve finally finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the newest book in the HP series. Relax, this post contains no major spoilers. I’ll just share a bit about the main source of tension in the book: the relationship between Harry and his son.
The Cursed Child is largely about pain, and the overcoming of it. Really, aren’t all great stories? Harry seeks to heal his strained relationship with his son, Albus. He finds himself face to face with a talking portrait of Dumbledore. Their conversation turns to Harry’s once strained relationship with Dumbledore, his main father figure:
“Years I spent alone,” says Harry, “without knowing what I was, or why I was there, without knowing that anybody cared!”
During the years that Harry was alone, not knowing that wizards even existed, Dumbledore was dealing with his own pain.
“I am no fit person to love,” says Dumbledore’s portrait. “I have never loved without causing harm.” He goes on to say something that literally took my breath away:
“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”
As Dumbledore says, pain is an inevitable part of life. Spiritual teachers seek salvation, or enlightenment, to end suffering. I believe the Buddha actually defined nirvana as “the end of suffering.” But the end of suffering does not necessarily mean the end of pain. I think it means accepting pain, and learning to handle it in an enlightened way.
Pain is inevitable in relationships, especially between parent and child, where the ties that bind are so complex. The parent is expected to provide physical and emotional security for the child. That’s a lot to ask, especially when the parent is most likely dealing with unresolved pain. There is never an excuse for abuse—but on the other hand, we can’t expect perfection. We need to find another path.
The Antidote to the “Drop of Poison”
Dumbledore’s portrait suggests that Harry reveal his imperfections to his son. Burst the bubble of Harry Potter, The Legend. Show his son that they share the human condition. Be a role model for dealing with the pain that comes with life on planet Earth.
At the very end of the book, Harry invites his son for a walk.
“You told me you don’t think I’m scared of anything, and that—I mean, I’m scared of everything. I mean, I’m afraid of the dark, did you know that?”
When communicating with a loved one about pain, fear is a great place to start. We all deal with it. Some of us (ahem, me) experience intense anxiety. Others experience fear in the form of anger, workaholism, or any number of things. The point is to be vulnerable, and to share it with each other.
Harry eventually reveals his greatest fear: “being a dad.” I believe all parents experience this in one way or another. I’m not a parent myself, but I’ve heard many parents talk about it, including my own. Childrearing is possibly the biggest responsibility any human can have. And there’s the fear of messing up, of being imperfect. But as Harry learns, the solution isn’t to feign perfection. It’s to share the imperfection, in a humane and caring way. Some pain is inevitable; that is the “drop of poison.” But with acceptance and honest communication, we’ve brewed an antidote.
How do you deal with pain in your relationships? What’s your antidote? Are you an HP fan? Share in the comments (just keep it spoiler free).
Source: Rowling, J.K, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2016. 258. Print.