Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.
The other day, I was watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince when I got to the scene when Ron Weasley eats some chocolates. What he didn’t know was that they that contained Amortentia, the most powerful love potion in the Harry Potter universe. As much as we see exactly how much Rupert Grint enjoyed filming this scene in the movie, it got me thinking about two powerful obsessions known as love and hate.
Going back to Half Blood Prince, Amortentia caused Ron to show that the strongest form of love the potion could create was obsession, in this case a strong crush. Actually, ‘strong crush’ is an understatement. The girl who planted the love potion in the boys’ dormitory was all that Ron could think about, and he wouldn’t listen to what anyone said unless it involved her name. Can you remember the first time you fell in love with someone, the things that were going through your head at the time? All you could see in that special someone was the good qualities that he or she possessed; you were blind to everything else. You didn’t know what would come of this first love, but you were in bliss. It feels so good that it must be good, and nothing could go horribly wrong, right?
In some cases, sure. But in others, it could turn out badly. If they do something wrong, you tend to ignore it or find a valid excuse so that you can continue to love them without feeling guilty about it. I think in some cases this is why some people have a tendency to stay in abusive relationships; they’re determined to focus on the good and ignore the bad. I’ve never been in a relationship, but I’ve crushed on a guy who…well, let’s just say he wasn’t as nice as I thought he was. By the time I realized how much he was hurting other people, I had already invested more than I thought I had into him. As for Ron…well, I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it does lead to an important yet negative plot point.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have hate. In many regards it’s quite different from love, but in many others it’s not that different at all. Can you remember a time (if any) when there was someone you just couldn’t stand to be anywhere around? When you hate someone so much, you’re determined to do so at all costs. It’s all you can think about. You keep watching them, criticizing everything they do, and finding reasons to hate them even more. When none come up, you make up an excuse and convince yourself to believe it. You can’t help but rejoice when something bad happens to that person. If they do something good or kind to you, that doesn’t really change the way you feel about them, does it? It might actually strengthen that hate. Remember the story of David and Saul in 1st Samuel? There were at least two instances when David spared Saul’s life and put himself at the king’s mercy. But Saul’s hate was so strong, even though he returned the favor at both instances, that he couldn’t let it go. And in the end, it destroyed him.
So if it’s deadly to obsess about anything in either of those cases, it’d probably be best to do the exact opposite and be indifferent, right? That’s what I thought. So I was surprised to see exactly what the Bible had to say about indifference. Matthew 11:16-17 says “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘we played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” And Revelation 3:15-16 says “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Yikes. Talk about harsh.
Upon reflection, it makes sense that indifference could be worse than loving or hating anyone or anything too much. I mean, think about it. Would you rather have your parents smother you with love until you get sick of it, or would you rather they ignore you altogether? It kind of goes back to my blog post about whether gays/lesbians should have the right to marry (https://lgalfonso.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/gay-rights-in-a-weary-world/ ). Back then, I had said that I’d chosen not to worry about it because—as someone who isn’t LGBT—it wasn’t my issue to worry about. Looking back, that was a display of indifference, which isn’t quite biblically correct. Don’t get me wrong, I still stand by my argument that anyone should have the right to make their own decisions regardless of sexual orientation. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least look into what the Bible says about homosexuality. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t study the context of those verses again and again until we can come up with a sound conclusion.
Which brings me to my main question on this topic: it’s dangerous to care about something so much that it clouds your judgment. But it’s equally perilous to just ignore it like it doesn’t exist. So where’s the perfect balance? How can we tell if we’re veering too far in one direction or the other? I wracked my brains for three days trying to figure out how to answer that question. I was stumped, my roommate was stumped, and even the Bible didn’t have the answers I was looking for. I knew that there was a perfect balance; I just didn’t know what it was. But then three things happened.
First, I found an online article titled “All Great Achievement Lies Within the Gap Between Obsession and Indifference” by Kiaran Finn, and the writer brought this up:
“Motivation is the fuel that allows one person to run through a brick wall in the pursuit of a goal, indifference provides barely enough fuel to get out of bed…the problem with obsession is that the narrow focus and lack of peripheral insight repels rather than attracts the object of the obsession. It is an addictive and often self-centered pursuit of self-gratification.”
Second, I watched Disney’s Princess and the Frog. In the prologue, when Tiana’s parents are tucking her in for the night, her dad says “you can do anything you set your mind to. Just promise your Daddy one thing: That you’ll never, ever lose sight of what is really important.”
Third, I read JK Rowling’s notes on the Mirror of Erised, as found on the Pottermore website. When you look into the Mirror of Erised, you see your heart’s greatest desire. When Harry looked into it, he saw his family. This is her take on the words he exchanged with Professor Dumbledore on this artifact:
“Albus Dumbledore’s words of caution to Harry when discussing the Mirror of Erised express my own views. The advice to ‘hold on to your dreams’ is all well and good, but there comes a point when holding on to your dreams becomes unhelpful and even unhealthy. Dumbledore knows that life can pass you by while you are clinging on to a wish that can never be—or ought never to be—fulfilled. Harry’s deepest yearning is for something impossible: the return of his parents. Desperately sad though it is that he has been deprived of his family, Dumbledore knows that to sit gazing on a vision of what he can never have, will only damage Harry. The mirror is bewitching and tantalizing, but it does not necessarily bring happiness.”
So with all of those things said, here’s the answer I’ve come up with:
Life has a lot to take in, and no matter what point we may be at, there’s still so much that we haven’t seen yet. My dream is to be a published author, and I need to work hard and stay motivated if I want to see that dream become a reality. But at the same time, I can’t lose sight of the good things I do have. I can’t be so obsessed with my goal that I ignore everything else: my family, my friends, and—most importantly—my faith. We need to hope for a better future, but we also need to be realistic and know that some dreams (in Harry’s case, for example, the resurrection of his parents) can’t be. The points where we may be leaning too far in one direction or the other depends on how one would objectively look at it. On one side, too much obsession can turn to madness. But on the other side, indifference doesn’t lead anyone anywhere.
Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”