The seventh and final Harry Potter book comes out this Friday at midnight. When it does, I will be waiting in line at the Barnes and Noble with children in costume, their parents, and (probably) a lot of (slightly) older people like me, who've been swept up in a compelling, well-woven story that we don't yet know the ending of. I will then drive home, read through the night, page-by-page, and by that morning, I will know, and know honestly, before the media inevitably spills the beans, the fate of Harry Potter, Voldemort, Hermione, Ron, and the rest. I will then faithfully keep the secret until I run into someone else who knows it, and, checking to make sure no one else is in earshot, proceed to discuss it for hours.

Why do this? Because surprise is the greatest pleasure God grants us in this life, and it's a scarce commodity these days. Chesterton put it this way in Chapter IV of Orthodoxy:

This elementary wonder, however, is not a mere fancy derived from the fairy tales; on the contrary, all the fire of the fairy tales is derived from this. Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment... The world was a shock, but it was not merely shocking; existence was a surprise, but it was a pleasant surprise. In fact, all my first views were exactly uttered in a riddle that stuck in my brain from boyhood.

(Bunny trail - Here's a good article on why Chesterton loved Jane Austen. My own thoughts on the matter are well-known...)

My first responsibility as an Engineer is to anticipate and manage risks, whether they be risks to safety, budget, or reliability of the system. In other words, I am paid, in part, to eliminate surprise. I'm never terribly successful at doing so, and ironically, that's one of the things I love about working in the world of big men with big trucks - things never quite happen as you expect them to. At these times, I work with a group of resourceful people to solve the problem, thinking on my feet, and so far, almost all has ended well.

And I hope all ends well with Harry in his showdown with Voldemort on Saturday morning, but I'm not sure it will. Voldemort is pure evil, and defeating pure evil demands sacrifice. I don't know how it will turn out, but I can't wait to find out...

(And, worst-case, it can't turn out any worse than the last time I waited in line at midnight for something...)


At 11:37 AM, Blogger Aaron said...

Should it not be equally surprising whether the moment of discovery comes from reading the book, seeing the movie, or overhearing someone tell you how the story ends before you read the book?


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