Inspiration in Edinburgh
The Harry Potter series has had an incredible impact on the lives of everyone who has been immersed into the world of the characters in the books and films. Many would call the movies and novels a defining part of our generation. We grew up waiting for the next book, or the next movie, and whenever they did come out, the amount of excitement surrounding them was electrifying. People from countries all over the world have taken part in this phenomenon, and in some respect, it has acted as a universal unifier. The stories bring people together and allow others to lives outside the crazy day-to-day mayhem by becoming part of something magical. In the United States in particular, fans go crazy every time a new movie or book comes out by waiting in massive lines and dressing up as their favorite characters in order to be a part of something bigger than themselves – the world of Hogwarts. Although Americans feel an attachment to the stories and the characters, Scotland has a special tie to the creation and history behind these books. Over the course of the last week, we felt those connections first hand.
Thursday, during a discussion, each member of the trip was given a question to answer about J.K. Rowling. When looking at her past, many of the events in the stories make a lot more sense. For example, she lost her mother as a result of MS, and it took a huge toll on her. To parallel this event, Harry also lost his parents at a very important time in his life. Rowling was also diagnosed with clinical depression after leaving her husband, moving to Edinburgh and living just above the poverty level. To depict this, she introduced the dementors in one of the later novels to illustrate the struggles in life, and although they do not go away, there are different ways in which people can protect themselves from the bad things in life. This was hidden message number one from the day spent looking at Rowling’s life. Although there are always things lingering and their presences creates an uneasy feeling, there are still ways to defend against them by having close friends around and building up the right walls to overcome them.
Rowling came up with and began to imagine the story of Harry Potter when her train was delayed from Manchester back to London, where she was living at the time. Living such a busy life and always moving from one place to another, often leaves little time to collect one’s thoughts and take time out of the day just to think. This four-hour period was the perfect solution; there was nowhere to go and nothing to do, other than sit, wait, and think. She did not have a pen with her and she was too shy to ask anyone to borrow one, so she came up with all these ideas in her head and formed the image of a boy whose story would change the world. This information about the beginnings of Harry Potter brought the class to its second lesson of the day – no matter how busy someone is, it is absolutely necessary to pause from all the commotion and think. Who knows where these minutes, or even seconds, of clarity can take you.
After learning a little bit more about the events in Rowling’s life that inspired her, visiting a few of the locations to see what she experienced first hand brought a new perspective. In a sense, Harry Potter and his world were born in a number of the local, public coffeehouses in Edinburgh. When she wrote at The Elephant House, she usually sat on the third floor of the building. This floor had special meaning, because from it, she could look down at the Greyfriars Graveyard and a private, local elementary school. When she needed a little more inspiration, she used to walk around the cemetery looking for new ideas. At least four of the characters’ names – Riddle, Potter, Moody, McGonagal – in the stories were taken directly off of gravestones from here. The school also had significant importance to her; the architecture of the school was one of the first pieces of inspiration for the creation of Hogwarts. The medieval construction and castle feel that Hogwarts possesses mirrors many parts of the school. Here, another message from the life of Rowling was found. There is inspiration everywhere waiting to be found. Everything has a story to tell; finding that story is the next step. In old countries like Scotland, history is in every step, in every building, in every person, especially in Edinburgh.
By defending ourselves from the bad in life by turning to the good, taking time out of every day to pause and think, and looking for the inspiration in everything around us, JK Rowling’s example and success can teach us to look at life in a whole new way and continue to improve ourselves as people. In the United States, there is a lot of pressure to succeed and be the best, which leaves very little time to explore the world around us. Our trip to Scotland last week allowed us to slow down after being in the big city atmosphere in London and evaluate all that we have been able to see and do over the past four weeks. The passion shown by our speakers, the amazing castles we have visited, the mountains we have hiked, and the once in a lifetime experiences we have had really hit me while we were in Scotland. This trip has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Not only have my mass media skills and knowledge improved, but my overall awareness of the world around me has allowed me to look at things in a new, brighter light. In a sense, taking the time to reflect on the day’s activities and blog about them has been one of the most rewarding experiences of the whole trip, and it is something I will be able to look back on in the future to remember just how inspired I am at this moment.