Yup…I geeked out and bought the latest Harry Potter buzz book… Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two (Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., © 2016). I didn’t wait in any lines at midnight on the night it was released. Sure…there were children’s parties at bookstores around the state. One of my cousin’s children went and enjoyed the revelries. Me? …Not so much into the crowd scene, and I have a lot of patience when I want to…so I bought it last week at a small independent book shop that carried my knit products…and even then, it was another week before I dove into it.
I feel it must be a little disappointing for its author—playwright Jack Thorne—to have had so many online reviewers post disappointing or dismissive reviews immediately after its release. My feeling is that many Potter fans are very likely spoiled little imps who aren’t familiar with play script form and so were flustered by the fact that they had to, in part, exert some greater part of their own creative minds in order to visualize and absorb the story. Change is hard, even for young readers conditioned to J.K. Rowling’s writing through seven previous books.
This is a little bit curious to me since younger children might seem to have the capacity for much greater creative imagination than adults. …Then again, maybe it was spoiled adults who were leaving those online reviews…
This won’t be much of a review at all, nor will it “spoil” anything… adherence to the Potter Pledge shall be upheld…except to say that this addition to the Harry Potter cannon did not disappoint me at all. In fact, I might have enjoyed it even more than some of the original story books. Having worked in the thee-ah-tahr myself, and being a produced playwright, the play script form of the story was no challenge at all for this reader. Though I must say, the special effects technicians at the theatre where this play is actually in production had to have been some wizards themselves to pull off some of the effects that the play script calls for! And successful they must have been, because the reviews for the live theatre version of this story, in London’s West End theatre district, have been astonishingly good. All I can imagine is wires simply EVERYWHERE…but those special effects people often do have several tricks up their sleeves. I do not expect to see the live theatre version anytime soon unless (a.) I win the lottery, (b.) I suddenly have a very lucrative upswing in tarot reading clients, or (c.) the show eventually comes on tour to the United States… and even then, it might be a hard scrabble to see it while living in rural Vermont.
While I don’t want to give the plot away, I will say that I was touched by the theme of struggling communications and emotional discord between generations of family members. They are core themes in this play with which it seems anyone can certainly relate…and with which even different families within the story all have their own struggles. Dealing with other identities and personalities within a family can sometimes be a challenge when you’re trying to figure out your own identity as well.
What I did really want to discuss were some extremely poignant passages in the play script that struck me as profound…especially considering the interest that I have with visual pedagogy and how we, as tarot readers, attempt to glean meaning and answers from simple visual symbolisms and pictures…
This all came to light at various points where the adult Harry Potter—at the age of forty—comes into contact with the roving portrait of his mentor, the late Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. It seems that Dumbledore hasn’t been manifesting within his frame very much…too many copies of his portrait throughout the realm to visit and explore. So when he does show up in a portrait in the Hogwarts hospital wing after a traumatic experience for Harry’s son (also named Albus), Harry is rather confounded that his once mentor is less than forthcoming with advice…
DUMBLEDORE: You must see him as he is, Harry. You must look for what’s wounding him.
HARRY: Haven’t I seen him as he is? What’s wounding my son?…Or is it who’s wounding my son? […] This black cloud, it’s someone, isn’t it? Not something?
DUMBLEDORE: Ah really, what does my opinion matter anymore? I am paint and memory, Harry, paint and memory…
HARRY: But I need your advice.
..But alas, Dumbledore has already exited the picture frame. Later, when speaking with the new Headmaster, Professor McGonagall, Harry—who truly knows better—continues to convince himself that there is something of greater import behind his short interaction with the picture-portrait of his late headmaster, Albus Dumbledore…
HARRY: And Dumbledore—Dumbledore said—
PROFESSOR McGONAGALL: What?
HARRY: His portrait. We spoke. He said some things which made sense—
PROFESSOR McGONAGALL: Dumbledore is dead, Harry. And I’ve told you before, portraits don’t represent even half of their subjects.
HARRY: He said love had blinded me.
PROFESSOR McGONAGALL: A head teacher’s portrait is a memoir. It is supposed to be a support mechanism for the decisions I have to make. But I was advised as I took this job not to mistake the painting for the person. And you would be well-advised to do the same.
HARRY: But he was right. I see it now.
PROFESSOR McGONAGALL: Harry, you’ve been put under enormous pressure, the loss of [your son], the search for him, the fears as to what your scar might mean. But trust me when I tell you, you are making a mistake.
But Harry continues to be adamant that the insight he received is a true vision and true wisdom, and dismisses Headmaster McGonagall in most unflattering ways.
This seems to me to be an excellent commentary on tarot reading… Clients often are at points of desperation for answers when they come for a reading. And the cards—mere “paint and memory”—can often be a powerful force of insight. But we shouldn’t be misguided—nor should we misguide our clients—that the cards are providing definitive answers, commandments, or soothsayings. What Harry fails to recognize in his distressed state is that any wisdom and insight generated from his interaction with the painted image…is solely his own mind’s confabulation. If he then decides to apply supernatural powers upon his own mind’s confabulations…then he is really only deluding himself, as well as closing himself off to the potential for changing, developing, or modifying his original ideas and insights as new information and new experiences eventualize themselves in his future.
THIS is true wisdom… Prudence is the ability to look at the past, weigh what has been learned, and execute plans in the present that will hopefully have a beneficial effect in the future… But this process is always fluid, adaptable, and malleable. Prudence doesn’t rest or sleep or take a break. Prudence is on a constant vigil for every new action and every new crossroads in our lives…which is pretty much all the time.
Later in the play, Harry has come to a little bit better understanding of what it means to confront the memories in his life, when Dumbledore again shows up in the empty portrait frame in Harry’s Ministry of Magic office. In this instance, however, the image appears to confirm Harry’s perceptions rather than dictate them…
HARRY: “Love blinds us”? [sic] Do you even know what that means? Do you even know how bad that advice was? My son is—my son is fighting battles for us just as I had to for you. And I have proved as bad a father to him as you were to me. Leaving him in places he felt unloved—growing in him resentments he’ll take years to understand—
DUMBLEDORE: No. I was protecting you. I did not want to hurt you… But I had to meet you in the end…eleven years old, and you were so brave. So good. You walked uncomplainingly along the path that had been laid before your feet. Of course I loved you…and I knew that it would happen all over again…that where I loved, I would cause irreparable damage. I am no fit person to love…I have never loved without causing harm.
HARRY: You would have hurt me less if you had told me this then.
DUMBLEDORE: I was blind. This is what love does. I couldn’t see that you needed to hear that this closed-up, tricky, dangerous old man…loved you.
HARRY: It’s true that I never complained.
DUMBLEDORE: 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.
HARRY: You said that once to me before.
DUMBLEDORE: It is all I have to offer you tonight. (He begins to exit the painting.)
HARRY: Don’t go!
DUMBLEDORE: Those that we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch. Paint…and memory…and love.
…And love…that what this play is about, too. Not unlike a great tarot reading… when the cards…and memory…remind us to love.