Harry Potter – heard of him? – featured fairly prominently in our house over the Christmas holidays. Thanks to some generous and on-the-ball friends and relatives, we can now enjoy wall-to-wall wizardry: in the car via what I still refer to as ‘story-tapes’; at bedtime via the books (paperback and hardback); through the robes and wands now in our dressing-up box; through a series of journals, notecards, keyrings and figurines; by building various sub-sections of Hogwarts out of lego; and by enjoying a lazy evening in front of a DVD.
The Harry Potter films (I have yet to watch, or read, beyond Book 4 – no spoilers, please!) make for really good viewing. We settled down en famille to watch the second in the box-set, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, having recently finished it in its other available formats. It was great! Loads of action, a couple of baddies, some scary monsters, some fabulous magic, plenty of nostalgic shots of Durham Cathedral where I was a student and choral scholar at the time of filming (I almost met Hedwig once), a whole heap of brilliant early-noughties special effects, and some wholesome moral messages and values.
Towards the end of the film, Harry begins to wonder whether the Sorting Hat has put him in the wrong house and whether he should in fact be, shudder, in Slytherin. (Incidentally, I initially read the book in French when it first came out – I was living near Bordeaux at the time – and the translation for Sorting Hat is ‘Choixpeau Magique’ – how glorious is that?). Dumbledore listens as Harry wonders why he was put in Gryffindor when he seems to have many of the qualities of you-know-who; the ultimate Slytherin-ite:
“[The sorting hat] only put me in Gryffindor,” said Harry in a defeated voice, “because I asked not to go in Slytherin…”
“Exactly,” said Dumbledore, beaming once more. “Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle. It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
And, as is unquestionably the case ubiquitously, the Headmaster is right. What matters is our choices; our decisions; what we say; what we do. In other words – what defines us is our habits. Being naturally talented is all very well, but it is nothing without good choices, good values, and good habits. You can be as brainy, as sporty, as musical, as witty and as razor-sharp as you like: what really matters – above and beyond any of those laudable attributes – is what you’re like as a person: ie, the choices that you make.
Our 9 ECS Habits and our 6 Pre-Prep Golden Rules exist for exactly that reason – because, if we strip everything else away, our Habits (what we do, what we say, the decisions that we make, the way we treat others) are what matter. In the words of Dumbledore: ‘they show what we truly are’.