Chase Your Chaos - A Harry Potter Metaphor
Apologies for the blasphemy, but here's the truth: I've never read or seen Harry Potter. Perhaps that is why the symbolism contained in one of the biggest cultural phenomena was such a surprise to me. And for the sake of being controversial, I'll say this as well: I've never seen LOTR or Star Wars, either.
Shall we carry on?
JK Rowling’s game of Quidditch contains more symbolism than meets the eye. At first glance, it appears to be a fun, fictional game made to enhance the Harry Potter universe. After giving it a second thought, I’ve found deep wisdom in the game of Quidditch -- a sentence that I could never have predicted I’d write.
Let’s start with the game mechanics:
Like most games, the goal is to get the ball (or… Quaffle) through various baskets on either end of the field. Get that done, and you score some points. Fair play, until you consider two more variables -- the bludgers and the golden snitch. In Quidditch, the bludger balls can be used to knock players off their broomsticks, while catching the golden snitch grants an immediate victory. (Except on rare occasions.) Needless to say, catching the golden snitch is extremely difficult. It is small, fast, winged, and nimble.
A Metaphor for Life
In some ways, we can view Quidditch itself as the playing field for life -- the act of both teams trying to score points is akin to having a job, maintaining relationships, and staying “in-bounds” on the actions you take in everyday life. The bludger balls, then, can be seen as setbacks. Sometimes these setbacks are minor, but other times they are the "knock-you-off-your-broomstick" kind.
This is all fine, until you consider the golden snitch; the round ball of chaos flying around that, if caught, renders all previous actions taken void -- it’s over, you win the game. I view the snitch as a passionate goal. It’s difficult to catch, it requires the ability to play outside the normal rules of life, and it could cause destruction if its pursuit is not done with care.
You may be thinking, “Why not pursue the snitch and disregard the game?”
This is an option, though I’d argue it’s advantageous to play the game alongside searching for your ball of chaos. In Harry Potter, Quidditch points are totaled on a per-season basis. For ranking purposes, teams need to play the game. In this way, we could say that the totality of your wellbeing is the counterweight between scoring points in the traditional “game” while also searching for that which makes you deeply happy.
In life, we are often led to believe that playing the game to score points is all that matters -- that it’s too dangerous to search for your golden snitch. Some are not even aware that the snitch exists at all -- they are too swept away by the pace of the game.
JK Rowling did not stumble across this idea accidentally. In Ripley’s scroll from the 15th century, (a guide to creating the philosopher's stone for immortality) the golden winged orb represented a psychopomp; a messenger of Gods. These are entities that can communicate between the unconscious and conscious realms. Many argue that the philosopher's stone is not a physical object at all, but rather a metaphor for enlightenment. The golden, winged ball of chaos represents an important element in the path to enlightenment; namely, the ability to understand oneself and self-actualize.
Identify and Capture Your Golden Snitch
Becoming aware of the golden snitch in your life is the first step to pursuing something outside of the traditional game. While still advantageous to uphold your day to day activities, identifying and pursuing the snitch gives meaning to the rest of the game.
What is your golden snitch?
It’s time to get after it.
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