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Gretchen Rubin

Consider This Passage from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

Double checking for happiness with Harry Potter!

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

One of my passions in life is children’s literature, and of course, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. My four-year-old loves the HP movies (yes, I know they’re scary, but they don’t bother her, so I let her watch them), and I’ve seen them all several times, and a few nights ago, we were watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the tenth time.

In the movie, a particular moment passes in a flash, and that disappoints me, because I think this moment is one of the emotional highlights of the entire series. I looked up the passage to re-read it, and I realized that – surprise! – it has tremendous relevance to a happiness project.

As so often happens with this kind of memorable passage, I saw that the metaphoric meaning was very powerful, and stunningly obvious, once I focused my attention on it.

To set the scene:

Although he’s underage, Harry Potter has been illegally entered as one of four participants in the dangerous Triwizard Tournament, and now he’s magically bound to participate. The first task will be to steal a golden egg from a dragon, without being killed.

Beforehand, one of Harry’s professors, Mad-Eye Moody, tries to give Harry some advice without giving away the nature of the task (which Harry already knows, anyway). Moody says:

“I don’t show favoritism, me. I’m just going to give you some good, general advice. And the first bit is – play to your strengths.”

“I haven’t got any,” said Harry, before he could stop himself.

“Excuse me,” growled Moody, “you’ve got strengths if I say you’ve got them. Think now. What are you best at?”

“My second piece of general advice,” said Moodly loudly, interrupting him, “is to use a nice, simple spell that will enable you to get what you need.”

Harry realizes that he’s best at the wizard sport Quidditch – he’s best at flying. And therefore the spell he needs is a Summoning Charm, so that when he’s facing the dragon, he can summon his Firebolt, his broomstick.

The moment when Harry Potter faces the Hungarian Horntail, and raises his wand, and shouts, “Accio Firebolt!” is one of the most thrilling moments in all seven books.

It’s when Harry Potter accepts his own nature, and his own strengths, and works within them to meet his dragon.

As John Keats wrote, “A Man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory, and very few eyes can see the Mystery of his life -- a life like the scriptures, figurative.” Like the Scriptures, like Harry Potter.

One of the secrets of happiness is to recognize your lessons where you find them. Have you ever been struck by a big lesson in a surprising place?

P.S. For my proof-reading readers, Keats didn't capitalize "Scriptures" in the original. I just didn't want to put the ugly "sic" in the middle of a beautiful quotation.

* New York City got hit by a big snowstorm, so I identified with the snowmen in this time-lapse video showing the effects of Washington D.C.'s blizzard.

* Want to launch a group for people doing happiness projects together? I'm in a group like that myself, and I love it! If so, read more here and sign up here for a starter kit to help get you going.