The most perverse and ugly type of evil arises from a lust for power. There is no greater example in modern literature of this than Lord Voldemort. He sacrificed his soul in order to become immortal and severed the ties to his humanity by becoming a merciless killer. And yet a boy with no extraordinary magical talent defeated him. How, and why?
In Paradise Lost, Lucifer’s quest was guided by a desire for revenge against God. In JK Rowling’s famous fantasy novels, however, the main villain isn’t driven by a desire for revenge against a superior being who defeated him, but by a lust for power; a desire to have it all; to rule over everyone and to become master of everything, even death.
What can you do against such ruthlessness? Against someone with such an enormously fierce desire for power that it towers over everyone and crushes everything on its way?
In reality, there is nothing different between the fictional Voldemort and the people that control the masses in our ‘muggle’ world. Politicians, corporations, pharmaceuticals, newspapers, the military-industrial complex, the food industry, bankers, and others with obscene amounts of money at their disposition. They seek to control and desire power, even at the cost of the lives and wellbeing of others.
In a sense, the people running these organizations have also sacrificed their humanity. They have stepped over and hurt others in order to benefit themselves. And to continue benefiting, they have also sought to control. They are the real-life characterization of the greatest Dark Wizard in the wizarding world.
What can we do? By we I mean us ordinary folk, the people who wake up every day and go to work to fight for our dreams and a better world? What can we–the people with no power and no desire for it–do in the face of such odds?
In Rowling’s story, there was a prophecy that stated that a boy named Harry Potter would either defeat Lord Voldemort or be killed by his hand. This boy happened to be just an ordinary wizard. Granted, one who survived great personal tragedy, but ordinary nonetheless. He was quick on his feet, which made him outstanding in Defense Against the Dark Arts, but even with this he was no match against Voldemort.
Nevertheless, he won.
There were a couple of things that made Harry different. He was noble. He was selfless. He was brave. He thought of the well being of others before his own. He cared about people, which made him kind. He was determined. He never gave up, even when it seemed there was no hope and nothing to be done.
In the end, he faced death, and he faced it alone. He sacrificed himself in the hope, and only the hope, that it would save others even if it meant he would be destroyed.
All of these qualities stem from one ruling principle, and that is Love.
Love is what enabled Harry to finally take out Voldemort (with the help of a hundred others who stood by his side). How can this help us fight against our very own Dark Lords? The truth is, there is no easy answer. There wasn’t an easy answer in Rowling’s books, either, and they had a prophecy going for them, at least.
Before he died, Dumbledore had speculated Harry would survive his confrontation with Voldemort, but it was only speculation. He wasn’t sure. In these types of battles, one can never be sure.
But in the end, what nurtured Voldemort’s power was fear. What nurtured Harry’s power, on the other hand, was Love. And if there is one thing I’m certain about is that Love is greater than Fear. So what can we do in the face of such overwhelming evil?
Well, we can love. We can think of others, act for others, seek to understand people and help them rather than judge and condemn. We can be noble. We can be selfless. We can be brave.
If we all started acting this way, the world would be a different place. It may not solve all problems, not right away at least. But it’s a good place to start.
The next post in the series will examine one of my favorite stories, Goethe’s FAUST. We will analyze the main character’s journey and his relationship with Mephistopheles, his personal demon and a master trickster. Stay tuned!