This is a post about time travel philosophy and Doctor Who.
Okay here’s the first thing you need to know: I know nothing about the Bible. I’ve never read it; I was just mucking about with that comment before — I’ve never read Job, and I’m sure even the measuring stick quote has a metaphorical importance in its context.
Personally, I both like and don’t like the concept of organised religion. It has its upsides as well as its downsides, obviously, and the relatively recent spark of “religion or no?” does not have the valuable tool of hindsight to tell us which is right. I probably will refer only to Christianity here because I have little root in any other religion.
I love most of what religion has inspired: the art, the architecture, the literature, the pull of reverence. Religious culture I find deeply fascinating and endlessly rich, but much of what it has inspired in terms of psyche and social structure I do not like.
I would not abolish the Church, but I do wish to change how it has shaped some of our cultures. The denial of women as the bringers of life — that upsets me. Instead, women are borne of man; instead of the more pagan idea of women with the power of birth (which we literally have), suddenly we are the offcuts of misogyny. It’s no longer as pronounced as it was, but it’s certainly present, and feminism is still a rising cause. I also dislike the worship of man as the highest power; we certainly did not build this planet and we certainly do not control it. If we should worship anything, I would logically think it should be the sun, or Earth, or what-have-you, because that has a tangible and useful day-to-day effect on our lives.
The warring and blindness in defence of the Church is also something of a tragedy. It doesn’t occur so literally now, but still religion is an issue we tip-toe around in favour of preserving its holy status.
I am a firm believer in science, in philosophy, and in what I see. I don’t require God in my life and I doubt I ever will; I hope not to have to. I don’t like the idea of indebtedness to anything. The entire idea of a higher power doesn’t resonate with me. Certainly the sense of ethereal beauty and otherwordliness we find here and there can be attributed to God, but I’d rather just attribute it to the complexity of the world and the power of my own emotions.
Really, I don’t like extremism in any of its forms. Anybody who makes the decision to injure another in their quest for faith has little foresight or perspective. It’s becoming a thing of the past, but the Church still inspires in many people a foolhardy sense of invincibility and ‘holier than thou’ supremity.
Some of the lessons of the Bible are good. Some are not. Some inspire aggression in people. Some inspire generosity and community spirit. Some inspire poisonous blindness. It is always a matter of balance, and hopefully, one day everybody will achieve a reasoned perspective on all things.
I have a very unhealthy fondness for Humbert Humbert. Quintessentially he is a figure of deepest sickness and should incite disgust from any functioning member of society, but I cannot bring myself to dislike him, and I think I have worked out why.
Humbert is one of the rare examples of a meta-character* I have ever come across in literature. In almost every situation, a character will be deeply absorbed in his world, battling as he must, experiencing impossible joy, living out the brilliant human experience. But few function as a person does. So often the aim of a character design is to appear real, realistic, tangible. Many come close in morality, irrationality, and passion — but few come close in terms of thought.
A person regularly invests themselves in things outside the events of their immediate life. Art, literature, music, film, every school of thought it given deep concern. I study myself as an entity beyond my own thoughts. I am aware of my faults and my shortcomings, and yet so few characters are. Humbert lays out before his jury, and the reader, every nuance of his mind, every passion, every urge, and analyses himself. That is the key of Humbert — he sees himself, as very few characters can.
Another notable example is Hamlet, who does this on a much smaller scale. Driven by the maddening force of other emotions, his analysis is much less calm, although obvious in his soliloquies. Both Humbert and Hamlet act, observe themselves, analyse their actions and then adapt that information into new thoughts. That is true character development — human development — and it’s what makes characters like Humbert Humbert so powerful.
I understand being disappointed with an author and having changes to make to the plot, but never step in upon another’s (highly acclaimed) series and tell them what they did was wrong. JKR did a “disservice” to James Potter? By not giving him enough page time to expand on the already glowing report he was deservingly given? I don’t even aim to defend Snape here, and I certainly agree he’s a basely unfair, abusive and bitter man — I’m merely angry with the inability of people to distinguish between respectful suggestion and forceful amendment.
Perhaps, dear reader, JKR intended for you to “sympathise with Snape”. Even further, perhaps she did not intend for you to sympathise, or to understand, but to just observe Snape — he is not a character to be idolized or forgiven. He, like some of our greatest and most prominent Dickensian characters, is a figure of redemption. He sees the error of his ways, attempts to repent, and may or may not be forgiven.
Whatever you think about his outward character, it does not change his moral value. Unfortunately, it took him a tragedy and a devastating regret to realise his error, but he realised it. Snape represents love, and bitterness, and how circumstance may play a role, but most importantly, he represents redemption.
A good character and a likeable character are not the same thing. People are usually drawn to characters they say are ‘good’, but it is in fact their likeability which makes them appealing. We all identify with a brave hero or a striving underdog.
But appeal doesn’t make a character morally ambiguous, or multi-layered, or realistic. A good character is steeped in human failure, human triumph, or human nature. They war with themselves, or others, and sometimes they don’t do well. A good character may be a murderer, a paedophile, a manipulator, a tyrant, vengeful, revolting, or remorseful. They can inspire hatred or fear, and certainly they may not be the sort of person you would wish to associate with. Equally, they may be a figure of inspiration or absolute moral fibre.
One should not allow preference to cloud judgement.