Thursday, August 10, 2017
Harry Potter and the Endless Inventiveness of Fans
I discovered a podcast recently called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, and I LOVE it. Brought to us by a couple of employee-graduates of Harvard Divinity School, I have never come across such a thoughtful, delightful, and uplifting discussion of pop culture.
I don't know whose idea it was originally to apply practices for reading sacred texts (the Bible mostly) to secular literature, but it is brilliant.
Lest this sound like sacrilege, let me be clear: nobody is saying the Harry Potter series is a set of sacred texts. These folks are just taking thoughtful practices from the Judeo-Christian traditions and applying the to Harry Potter to see what they can learn, about themselves and living an ethical life
I thought it was weird too, until I started to listen. The hosts, Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, are lovely and wholesome and funny. It does my heart good just to hear a couple of Millenials talking about how to be good people and bringing an intellectual approach to it. What they are doing is so counter to the approach of the current people in power in the U.S. government and those who put those people in power. To use a Harry Potter metaphor, they are a warm and fuzzy version of the Order of the Phoenix.
If Harry Potter isn't your thing, you can bring this approach to your favorite literary work; Vanessa Zoltan wrote her masters thesis on reading Jane Eyre as a sacred text; her explanation of how she came to that project is touching and told in an early episode of the podcast.
Read an interview with Vanessa and producer Ariana Nedelman published last year in the Harvard Gazette here.
Update: I got to meet Casper, Vanessa, and Ariana at a live version of the podcast in Holyoke, Mass. on May 8, 2019. It was such a wonderful experience! They are even nicer in person, if that is possible. And Casper is an Olympic class hugger! Totally worth it if you are a fan of the podcast.