Friday, July 18, 2014

What makes Gryffindors brave in our muggle world?

Gryffindor House Traits Brave Daring Bold
From the beginning of the series in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, readers become immediately aware of how prominent the Gryffindor house is. The Sorting Hat's description for Gryffindors jumps right off the page: brave at heart, daring, and chivalrous. Almost too many of the main and minor characters hail from Gryffindor, everyone from The Golden Trio, misft-turned-hero Neville Longbottom, all four of the Mauraders (Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, James Potter and Voldemort's follower Peter Pettigrew), the entire Weasley family, Albus Dumbledore - to name a few. With all of their adventure of standing up against evil and what they believe in, to be sorted into Gryffindor is quite the tall order.

By reputation there is a lot to live up to. As someone who's been naturally sorted into Gryffindor (in contrast to choosing it because it's the most popular), I wonder a lot what it means to be brave in our Muggle world when wizarding evil isn't lurking around every corner.

To be honest, for Gryffindors, there aren't many quiet acts of heroism throughout the series. When we closer examine the characters and their individual fears - let's take the golden trio and Neville for example - they don't have a lot of moments dealing with their everyday fears, situations that makes them anxious, or squaring off against people that fills them with panic or terror. If there is something they're scared of, they rise to the occasion:

  • Harry's biggest fear is fear itself, which varies depending on the threat that presents itself. Some say his biggest fear was death, however that can be counteracted by the fact that he uses Voldemort's name freely throughout the series (never wailing on whether that is used to track him or not), and physically diving into situations without much pause.
  • Hermione's biggest fear is not a failed test, but not living up expectations and getting expelled from Hogwarts - a place she has begun to find her grounding and self.
  • Ron's phobia of spiders is never truly solved or eased - he never comes face to face with another eight legged freak after narrowly escaping The Forbidden Forest.
  • Neville had to imagine Professor Snape as his grandmother in year three during the Boggarts class by Professor Lupin. The almost-chosen-one never has a confrontation with the teacher standing up to himself or someone else (the often belittled Granger, for one) within class.
Though the characters never had the absence of fears, they weren't really presented with opportunities to face those specific fears above throughout the series. 

This is not to say that the long hard-fought battle against Lord Voldemort was easy as pie. Sure the characters faced anxieties and worries of their loved ones dying or becoming gravely injured - Ron leaves Harry and Hermione temporarily (at the slight influence of wearing one of the Horcruxes) after all. However, in the effort to save those we love from pain through an outside source, or to chase adventure, our bravery tends to fall on the line of being reckless, going with our gut feelings, and not thinking things through. That often has consequences to ourselves or others in the real world.

Often as a Gryffindor, standing up for myself or others is are not loud declarations. I like to go on adventures or deviate from a plan, but it sometimes takes me a while to warm up to the idea. Proceeding with caution and planning ahead to figure things out eventually, but slowly, takes a backseat to accepting that all hell is going to break loose anyways.

My biggest form of "bravery" is probably being proud of my personality and my empathy. I like what I like, hate what I hate, and stand to reason to back up whatever I enjoy. I've always stood out from the pack from my peers in terms of my interests or hobbies, and have veered away from locking out my passions to appease society's standards. Empathy in not so many ways is more of an internal call of action, rather again like most Gryffindors that is proudly displayed. I try not to cast judgement on others and remind myself that to walk in other people's shoes because I do not know their story. My way rests less on waving my wand in duels and more in striving to defend others by signing petitions, signal boosting posts on tumblr, donating money or time to charitable causes. Either characteristics are hardly loud, outspoken, or to be remembered in the name of heroics.

What is right isn't always what is easy. Risk is involved in being bold. In the Muggle world, we don't have wizarding evil lurking around every corner, but there's enough political issues worth standing up for and against. Being brave doesn't necessarily mean chasing or making thrilling heroics, being brave can include the small stuff too. And sometimes, lending a roar for those voices that may not be loud to defend themselves or facing our everyday fears like social anxiety is daring enough.

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