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  • Writer's pictureRev. Kate J Meyer, LPC

If Muggles had Pensieves

If you understand the title of this blog, then you are also a fan of all things Harry Potter. But, as we have some true Muggles in our midst, please indulge a moment to translate.

Muggles: non-magical people

Pensieve: a place to observe memories either, 1) taken directly from the brain, or 2) from the jar into which the memory was previously collected.

Clear as mud? I trust it will become clear as we go on.

Harry is introduced to the pensieve in Dumbledore's office wherein he stumbles first upon it and then into it. He quickly learns he is a silent and unseen observer of the swirling memories of Dumbledore himself and takes in what he can until he is pulled back out.

I've been through the entire Harry Potter series several times, but always by audiobook. The actor, James Dale, who acts the books (and he truly does act them) is phenomenal; if you have yet to read Harry Potter or yet to listen to them, I strongly recommend taking the time to do so. But I digress.

Muggles, us mere mortals, have things like diaries and journals in which we record day-to-day activities, confessions, hopes, dreams, etc. Some of us lay ourselves so bare in those pages that we blush at the mere thought of someone one day opening the pages.

I believe in the value and use of a journal. I know it to be an important tool in the processing of emotions and significant life events. I know a journal to be an important component in dreaming and in the life of faith. In other words, you'll never hear me let anyone off the hook of at least trying the practice of regular journal writing.

And yet, a journal is nothing compared to a pensieve. In a pensieve, the details come back in a way that is complete and consistent, with little, if any, rewrites. Reviewing a memory in a pensieve means taking a good, long look at the whole of the situation.

(Yes, fellow PotterHeads, I remember Slughorn and his editing. Let's leave that added complication out of this, okay?)

Overtime, our human tendency is to repeatedly edit a memory of any given situation until it reflects it just as we desire--usually reflecting the individual self in the best possible manner. We edit and reduce and rewrite; by the time we're done, the origin is barely recognizable.

This has merit. But I can't help but wonder if there isn't benefit to reviewing the full 360 degree of a memory. Sure, some pain would come. We might not (and here is where Slughorn fits) like what we see and what we see might cause shame or embarrassment; but is that all bad? What if, after reviewing a memory in full, we have the opportunity to learn and grow? Or see something from a different perspective that actually serves to ease the shame/embarrassment/anger, etc?

Would we, finally and totally, learn the horrors and truth of racism if the privileged were forced to experience the memory of a suffering one? Would we, finally and totally, learn how to listen to victims of rape and other sexual assaults if we were made to endure the memories of victims? Would we, finally and totally, cease our teasing if, through a pensieve, we stuck around long enough to witness the aftermath?

It is humble thing to so willingly allow another to walk through your memories. It takes a vulnerability from which most of us turn.

Dumbledore opened up his memories to Harry because he knew Harry needed the hidden truths therein. He was able to tuck away pride and regret in order to reveal his mind, not to edit the memory or remove the memory, but to glean and grow from it.

So, what if muggles had pensieves? Most of the time I'd say a journal will suffice, thank you very much; but I think there is a lesson to be learned from the wizarding world.

After all, how can we grow from the past if we redact it to the point of unrecognizability?

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