by Randall Allen Dunn
“Now, as you know, each and every one of you was searched upon your arrival here tonight. And you have the right to know why. Once there was a young man who, like you, sat in this very hall, walked this castle’s corridors, slept under its roofs. He seemed to all the world a student like any other. His name: Tom Riddle. Today, of course, he’s known all over the world by another name. Which is why, as I stand looking out upon you all tonight, I’m reminded of a sobering fact: Every day, every hour, this very minute, perhaps, dark forces attempt to penetrate this castle’s walls. But in the end, their greatest weapon … is you.”
Sooner or later, each of us must make a difficult choice. Sometimes the right choices are easy ones. Especially if we have trained ourselves to maintain good habits. We know that if we follow the proper instructions, we will be successful in our projects and assignments. We know that if we show kindness to others, most people will be kind to us in return. We know that if we work hard, study hard, or train hard, we will improve our skills and strength.
In the film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to his sixth year at Hogwart’s school, to find that it has added new security measures. The school’s headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), warns the students that evil forces are attempting to break into the school. He knows that he and Harry have personally dealt a blow to their enemies, the Death Eaters, successfully imprisoning one of their lead members, Lucius Malfoy.
Malfoy’s son, Draco (Tom Felton), is also back at Hogwart’s, with a secret mission to kill Dumbledore. His task was assigned to him by Lord Voldemort, who rules the Death Eaters and wants to establish a reign of terror over the entire wizarding world. At sixteen years old, Draco must decide whether he believes in the Death Eaters’ cause enough to become a murderer.
Unfortunately, Draco knows that if he fails to kill Dumbledore, Voldemort will kill him. He must choose whether to kill or be killed.
That is how many of our tough decisions feel. Whether to sacrifice ourselves to do what we know is right, or save our own necks and let others suffer. Even the simplest choices we face still boil down to the same question: whether to dowhat we want and serve our own short-term interests, or do what will benefit others and ultimately benefit ourselves more.
Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) also has a difficult choice to make. Dumbledore personally asked to return to Hogwart’s as a teacher, but Slughorn knows that Dumbledore actually wants him to reveal secrets of what he told Voldemort while the evil wizard was still a young student. Dumbledore is anxious to learn their secret conversation in order to discover Voldemort’s current plans.
But Slughorn knows he provided young Voldemort with dangerous information that helped him rise to power. Information he should never have shared with any student. To reveal his horrible act could ruin his reputation as a teacher forever.
But Harry urges him to be brave and do the right thing now, in order to honor the memories of Harry’s mother and all the other students who trusted and respected Slughorn. Convicted by this, Slughorn finally reveals the truth.
Harry also has a hard choice to make. He’s discovered a used textbook in his Potions class that states it is “Property of the Half-Blood Prince”. It contains special notes and instructions that allow him to excel in class, creating potions that no other student can concoct.Seeing the wealth of secret information he possesses, he studies the book deeply, becoming obsessed with it, learning spells that he never even knew existed.
Meanwhile, having made enemies with Draco over the years, Harry is the first to suspect him of becoming a Death Eater and of being responsible for the recent attacks on students. Attacks that were meant to kill Dumbledore instead.
When one such attempt nearly kills Harry’s best friend, Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry launches a personal attack on Draco. All their years of hatred for one another explode in a violent battle of wands. Harry finally attempts to end the conflict, once and for all, by using a secret spell he learned from his old textbook. A spell that the book reserves “for enemies”.
But when he casts it, he discovers that it not only defeats Draco, but leaves him lying on the bathroom floor bleeding to death. Thankfully, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) arrives and works to slowly heal Draco.
And preventing Harry from becoming a murderer himself.
Harry’s friends form an intervention group to meet with him and persuade him – specifically, help him – to choose to get rid of the book, once and for all. Harry has become so dependent on the book and its power that he can no longer choose wisely without some help. And his anger toward Draco has clouded his judgment too much for him to act wisely while holding such dangerous power. He agrees with his friends that the book must be destroyed, and he wisely agrees to let them help him get rid of it. Before its addictive power turns Harry into something he does not want to become.
Our choices will ultimately define us. What we choose for our lives will determine whether we become noble and courageous, or selfish and destructive. Whether we honor those we love and those who depend on us, or whether we seek our own interests instead, sending the message to others that we don’t care enough about them to change our ways.
The Bible book of Proverbs says that a man who lacks self-control is like a city with its walls broken down. In other words, if we don’t control ourselves and the choices we make, we open ourselves up to dangerous invaders. This is the very reason that Hogwart’s installed extra security to keep out its aggressive enemies. Once dangerous choices come inside our gates, they can begin to rule and destroy us from within.
We all have choices to make. And resulting destinies to fulfill.
Be careful what you choose.
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Thursday, November 1st, 2012