Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Buddhism and Misappropriation

For some reason, Buddhism, in America, has become a very unpopular religion. I find this highly interesting. I can't say that I know a lot about it. I know some of the basic tenets such as the Golden Mean and the eight-fold path and I'm also aware of some of it's more mystical elements involving reincarnation and hungry ghosts and things of that nature. At first glance it seems odd that it would be viewed so unfavorably. It's not like Buddhists as preaching violent jihad or anything like that. I had a university professor who swore that the Mongols lost their warlike nature when they adopted Buddhism and I am inclined to agree with him.

The problem to my mind is that the majority of contact that most have with Buddhism in America comes in two forms. The first are Buddhist immigrants from southeast Asia who form faith communities here and build temples and so on. These people are some of the friendliest, hard-working people you will ever meet. The second form are, for lack of a better term, are well-to-do progressives who have taken (misappropriated?) some of the more secular aspects of Buddhism, ignored or rejected the importance of faith communities, and make claims about "being spiritual without being religious." This is a rough divide and there are many who do not easily fit into either category, but for the purposes of this post, it will suffice.

The second group, I submit, is responsible for Buddhism's bad reputation. And to a certain extent, I can sympathize with that view. If someone was born in Thailand, a majority Buddhist country, and was raised a Buddhist and subsequently rejected the faith of his/her upbringing and claimed to be Mormon, how would that person be viewed by others in their community? Let's say this person has never gone to a single Mormon church meeting, has never been associated with any other Mormons and dismissed things like the First Vision and historicity of the Book of Mormon as superstitious nonsense. Rather they have only embraced the idea of free agency and eternal progression, although only in a limited, secular sense because other well-to-do, educated progressives had spoken favorably of it. Would we consider this person Mormon? Even with an expansive, inclusive definition of what constitutes a Mormon, this person would be on the outside looking in. You can't convert from Buddhist to cultural Mormon. And how would other community members view this person? Rather unfavorably, I'm afraid. Those well-to-do progressives attempt to define themselves as Buddhist come across as insincere as though they are covering their atheism with a veneer of intensely self-gratifying and self-centered spirituality. I personally find it tough to stomach and very insulting to Buddhists who havw fully embraced their faith and their faith communities.

Take the parable of the raft across the river. Quasi-Buddhists (and others...I have heard several former Mormons allude to it as a justification of rejecting Mormomsim) have taken a deep, profound insight of Zen Buddhism and made it into an incredibly self-centered, hubristic idea. In a nutshell, the parable of the raft asks one to imagine being on a dangerous riverbank, with no bridge and no boat, and with safety on the other side. The proper way forward is to build a raft and sail to the other side. Once there, having crossed the river, you no longer need the raft, so you should abandon it and move on. One meaning of the parable is that a religious idea can only get you so far, but at a certain point, you need to abanon it and move on. Some see this interpretation as profound and it could be if our life journey was done in solitude. But what of those around us? I live in a community with friends and family. We are all on this journey together. What of those who don't know how to build rafts? Do we abandon them so we can focus on ourself? What about those who built poorly-constructed rafts and are now floundering in the middle of the river? Do we let them drown because our way forward is more important then their safety? There are many ways to build rafts that help you cross the river. And until everyone has crossed the river, it is immoral and callous to abandon your friends and family there. Maybe you don't like the raft you crossed in; that's fine. Switch it for another that is equally as useful. But I think it hubristic to claim that you've outgrown your first raft or you no longer have a need for it. And for anyone who uses this parable as a justification for abandoning a religious heritage, you don't sound profound, you sound selfish and uncaring of those you left behind.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Rejecting Mormonism

I received some rather surprising news today. A person whom I had been quite friendly with for many years apparently “defriended” me on Facebook sometime in the recent past and today requested that I become a friend today. It’s probably a testament to my utter lack of social prowess that I never noticed she was gone in the first place, so I thought that she may have just let her account go inactive and then reopen another. It’s Facebook and it happens. No big deal. So I accepted her friend request.

The first thing that jumped out at me was that she was back in a relationship with her ex-husband. Call me a non-romantic, but I’m not so keen on rekindling relationships that already have a history of implosion. Life’s hard enough without having to relive our failures. One strike and you’re out. (Well, one divorce and you’re out, at any rate).

But what also stuck out was her religious preference which was the only other (for lack of a better word) trait that was listed on her profile page. I decided to investigate a little further and when I read some of her postings, I realized that she had gone from an ardent supporter of Mormonism to being an ardent supporter of agnosticism/atheism. Being a person who is rather lukewarm in matters religious or spiritual, I find religious ardor to be mystifying. I don’t get worked up about much of anything, but to me spirituality is such a gut-wrenching, difficult thing to deal with that I prefer to limit sharing my inner turmoil and angst to myself and persons whom I look up to as spiritual counselors (whom do not have to be members of the religious group with which I identify.)

It caused me to reflect on making such a public pronouncement of faith. I can only assume that she felt it necessary to cut out the people in her life that reflected her old ways. Religious conversion definitely means ending old relationships and beginning new ones. But it is odd that someone like me who had such an infinitesimal impact on her life would merit such a symbolic ending of friendship. This is especially true given that I hadn’t spoken to her in almost three years and hadn’t emailed her for the same amount of time.

All of these thoughts led me to the main point of this post and why I cannot turn my back on Mormonism. As I don’t care to elaborate on my personal beliefs (which are, and will remain, completely private) and my current connection with the Mormon Church, I will say that I have respect for the members of the Mormon Church. When I look back on my life and I recall the interactions that I’ve had with all the people that I met through Church and related activities, I can’t help but feel it was a good thing to have experienced it. I’m genuinely grateful that I got the opportunity to meet such good people. They are not perfect by a long shot. They have so many failings that I could list them here and never reach the end.

When I look back on the relationship I had developed with my agnostic friend, I have to credit the church for facilitating a lot of the initial meeting. I met her for the first time at an Institute of Religion. I danced with her many times at church dances. I enjoyed her company at numerous activities that members of the church planned and staged. I remember with fondness preparing for and singing a duet with her at a talent show. I can say that the church gave me opportunities to get to know someone whom I probably would never have met otherwise. It gave me the opportunity to get to know and experience the best qualities of another person. She is a tremendously talented individual and a very special woman. I will always think warmly of the many conversations we had with one another and the time we spent together.

Maybe there is no God and maybe there is no way to prove whether He exists. All I can talk about is what I know and what I don’t understand. I don’t understand the need people have to publicly cut ties with their cultural and religious past. I may not be a particularly devout member of my religion, but it is a part of who I am and it is a defining part of some of the relationships that I have with others. Call it unfortunate if you like, but I don’t think it’s possible to sever the religious aspect of your life and not impact the relationships that are connected to it. If I were to sever my connection to the Mormon church, its people and its history, life would go on. I would still get up and go on with life. But I can’t sever the relationships that I have built with it. Even as I sit here now and type this, there are ideas and cultural practices of Mormonism that I simply can’t agree with and that I simply can’t believe in. But deeper than those ideas, deeper than those cultural practices are the relationships that I’ve been blessed with. And to me, complete and utter rejection of Mormonism would be a rejection of those relationships. And that’s something I am not willing to do.

Last year I read “The Brothers Karamazov” as part of my goal to read the great books of literature. It was an astoundingly good novel, even if it was lengthy (it actually becomes a page-turner that you can’t put down by the time you get to page 300 hundred or so.) The best part of the whole novel is when Elder Zossima tells Alyosha to love the world, every being, every creature with his whole soul. Later on, Alyosha experiences this transcendental love. It is poignant and moving scene that acts as counterbalance to the more famous chapters of “Rebellion” and “The Grand Inquisitor.”

The person who conquers this world will be the person who can embrace and love all of it, even with all its horror, tragedy and cruelty. Anyone can love the beautiful and hate the ugly, but who among us can take that painful, yet liberating next step and love it all? I cannot turn my back on Mormonism because I can’t cut myself off from my heritage, from my culture and from my friends. Does it make me a hypocrite if I don’t happen to fit a certain type of membership profile, the often maligned “Peter Priesthood?” Does it make me a hypocrite if every day of my life I struggle with hope, faith and charity and fail?

Faith that does not require a struggle against itself is no faith at all. And yet, every day I struggle.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On My Long Hiatus

It has been quite some time since I posted anything on my blog. I have a couple of articles sitting in draft stages, but they are nowhere near being ready to be released. I have been working on other projects (in particular, a novel that I am writing) and I haven't had the time to spend thinking and writing about Mormonism, philosophy and law. I am still undecided if I want to split this blog into two and have one devoted to religion and another devoted to law and philosophy, but as I am naturally lazy, I get the feeling it's going to stay the way it is.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Response to Richard Dutcher

Richard Dutcher, the father of Mormon cinema, wrote an article for the Provo Daily Herald and shared his parting words regarding Mormon cinema. One particular quote seemed to jump out at me and although I have little or nothing to say in response to the issues raised by Mr. Dutcher, I felt that this particular idea needed a rebuttal of some sort.

Mr. Dutcher implored Mormons to "put the moronic comedies behind [them]. If [they]'re going to make comedies, at least make them funny. Perhaps [they] should leave the mockery of Mormons to the anti-Mormons. They've had a lot more experience and, frankly, they do a better job."

While reading Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, I happened upon a few short stories regarding traditional Christmas celebrations in Yorkshire, England that are rather lighthearted in nature. At the conclusion of the final story, Mr. Irving makes the following observation.

But enough of Christmas and its gambols; it is time for me to pause in this garrulity. Methinks I hear the questions asked by my graver readers, "To what purpose is all this? how is the world to be made wiser by this talk?" Alas! is there not wisdom enough extant for the instruction of the world? And if not, are there not thousands of abler pens laboring for its improvement? It is so much pleasanter to please than to instruct--to play the companion rather than the preceptor. What, after all, is the mite of wisdom that I could throw into the mass of knowledge! or how am I sure that my sagest deductions may be safe guides for the opinions of others? But in writing to amuse, if I fail the only evil is in my own disappointment. If, however, I can by any lucky chance, in these days of evil, rub
out one wrinkle from the brow of care or beguile the heavy heart of one moment of sorrow; if I can now and then penetrate through the gathering film of misanthropy, prompt a benevolent view of human nature, and make my reader more in good-humor with his fellow-beings and himself--surely, surely, I shall not then have written entirely in vain.
Life is too short to be fed a constant diet of 'serious' movies. Sure, we all like to watch a serious, thought-provoking drama sometimes. But for all the bad things that go on in the world, people sometimes have to step back and have a good laugh at themselves. Every once in a while people need brainless, meaningless fodder to put life into perspective. To argue otherwise, as Mr. Dutcher did, makes one come across sounding like a Puritan or a Debbie Downer.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On Alma 30-34

Sometimes when we read the Bible or the Book of Mormon because the books are separated by chapter and verse we have a tendency to read each chapter independent of the other chapters around them. This occurred to me suddenly today while our Sunday School class discussed Alma 32-34. Last week we discussed Korihor and Alma 30.

In the past, whenever I read Alma 30, I couldn’t help but wonder why Alma gave a few passing answers, but didn’t really respond to any of Korihor’s allegations. I think that for many people, the refutations are less than satisfactory. The major points that Korihor raises are the following:

1. Leaders of the church teach Christ and the atonement to get money from their congregations.

2. No one can know of things to come and be sure of them.

3. There is no atonement and each person fares according to his own strength and genius.

Alma basically testifies that these things are not true and gives a few examples, but he doesn’t really examine any of these above points in detail. Further on, Korihor admits that he knew the truth all along, but that he was deceived by the devil.

I don’t think that Mormon (or Joseph Smith, depending on your view of who wrote the Book of Mormon. The level of insight either way indicates a prophetic calling of the writer of the chapters regardless of who the actual author is.) was arguing that all atheists have met angels of light or that despite knowing the truth they cling to atheistic teachings because of their appeal to the ‘carnal’ mind. I think that he was trying to clearly establish that the three ideas above are in opposition to the true plan of God.

In Alma 32-34, however, we see a detailed response to Korihor’s teachings. These chapters act as a rebuttal to the false teachings of Korihor. Alma 32 starts out with a group of indigent individuals who have been prohibited from worshiping in their place of worship even though they built it. Alma teaches them that worship doesn’t occur in a holy sanctuary alone. True worship occurs in a believer’s heart. And it is a response to Korihor’s first point.

One thing that impresses me about the Mormon church is that, temple worship excepted, you can participate to your heart’s content without contributing one red cent. You can go to Sunday worship services, you can send your kids to weekly activities and you can go to church socials all for free. Of course, if no one contributed any money, none of these could occur. But the church doesn’t require you to donate anything to enjoy almost all the benefits that it offers.

Also in Alma 32, we get the much-maligned parable of the seed. Although it is written as an invitation to accept Christ into your life, I see it as a response to Korihor’s second argument that you cannot know of things to come and be sure of them.

Alma goes through the steps that one can do to come to a knowledge of religious truths. It is not a scientific test in that it is capable of repetition regardless of who attempts. It is a discourse on how faith under the right conditions can transform into knowledge. Those who have gone through this transformative religious journey know that Christ lives, not through the scientific method, but through the feelings and spiritual experiences they have encountered. Spiritual experiences aren’t merely good feelings, they are feelings that begin to expand your understanding of the world and fill your soul with happiness. Anyone who has had a spiritual experience could not misidentify it as mere emotion. Spiritual experiences are too transcendental to be limited to mere human emotion. And through these spiritual experiences, our faith is slowly replaced with knowledge. And so Alma is able to answer Korihor’s allegation that you can’t know of things to come and be sure of them. Alma teaches that you can know that Christ will come because seeking Christ causes the spiritual experiences discussed above.

Korihor’s third argument is that the atonement is not necessary and that to teach people that they are fallen causes them to seek religious instruction which allows the leaders of the Church to get money in exchange for those teachings. He thinks that people fare according to their own strength and genius. This argument is the one that tries to cut down the fundamental pillar of Judeo-Christianity.

The key tenant of Christianity is that we are all equal before God. As humans, we all have imperfections and weaknesses. God is not a respecter of persons, not so much in that He ignores our individuality and winks at our sins, but in that He has provided a way for everyone regardless of what their particular weakness or imperfection may be to become like Him. The atonement is just another way of saying that, whoever we may be as an individual, as a human being we are in the same boat as all of our fellow human beings.

The one who teaches that a person fares according to his own strength and genius teaches something that is very harmful. I won’t discuss the obvious form of this idea, but I will discuss a more subtle form of it. Among the laity in the Mormon church, there is an idea that unless you did everything you can do, you won’t achieve the highest level available. I don’t like this idea because it is in clear contradiction to the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets. It also requires a self-knowledge beyond that of a mere mortal. Can any one really envision judgment day where a wise and just God in pronouncing judgment on some poor soul would say, “Sorry Brother Jones. Your entrance into the celestial kingdom is denied. Although your record is exemplary, I find that you could have been a little bit more diligent in being kind to other people. In particular, there was an instance where you donated $20 to a charitable cause when $25 was the best that you could do. You didn’t repent of that adequately. Best of luck to you in the terrestrial kingdom. Next, please.”

Alma 34:15 says that salvation comes to all who believe in Christ. It says nothing about whether your actions will enable you to obtain salvation. And who are those that believe in Christ? People who believe in Christ seek him. Christ invitation to “come and see” in John 1 remains. And those who seek Christ repent of their sins. They do good works to feel his Spirit, not to curry favor in the afterlife. They desire everyone to feel the interconnectedness that blesses those who have the Holy Ghost within them.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

On Contract Law and Disney's "The Little Mermaid"

I recently had the opportunity of watching Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” after having not seen it for years. Although it was still a touching coming-of-age story with a great soundtrack and a host of memorable supporting characters, I noticed that there were some glaring plot holes that anyone with a contract law background would have noticed.

For those who have yet to see the movie, I will give you a brief synopsis. King Triton is King of the Sea with several daughters, the youngest of which is a precocious sixteen-year old who has a penchant for getting into difficult situations. Her name is Ariel. Her partner in crime is a flounder aptly named Flounder. After showing a complete disregard for her father’s rules (and missing her musical debut), her father assigns Sebastian, the royal composer, to keep an eye on her. Sebastian ends up being completely hopeless at the task and before long Ariel is back at the surface where she becomes enamored with a human prince named Eric.

Her father discovers her infatuation with the human prince and his daughter’s love for ‘surface’ things and in his anger destroys her collection of artifacts from dry land. Not surprisingly, this act, rather than endearing her to her father, drives her to seek help from Ursula, the Sea Witch. While there she signs a contract trading her voice for her legs. To make the trade permanent, Ariel has to have Eric fall in love with her and give her the “kiss of true love.” If she fails to do so, she will belong to Ursula. And thus begins a legal plot hole so large you could drive a truck through it.

Ursula and her henchmen (hench eels?) do whatever they can to stop Ariel from kissing the prince. The eels knock over a rowboat when Ariel and Eric are about to kiss and Ursula disguises her self as a princess and bewitches Eric. Right before Ariel and Eric attempt a second kiss, Ariel transforms back into a mermaid and Ursula grabs her and dives back into the ocean in a bid to take Ariel back to her lair.

En route, they meet Triton. Ursula pulls out the contract and Triton tries to destroy it with his trident. He is unable to do so and Ursula taunts him by saying that the contract is binding and legal. Triton sacrifices himself by agreeing to shoulder Ariel’s legal obligations.


First of all, Ariel is a minor and all contracts, as I’m sure that several video rental stores have eventually found out to their chagrin, signed by minors are voidable. All Ariel had to do was repudiate the contract. There is no way that Ursula could have enforced that contract. On turning eighteen, I’m sure that Ariel could have ratified the contract and been liable under it, but there is nothing in the movie to indicate that in the three days from when she signed the contract to when its legality was challenged that she turned eighteen. Part of the reason that contracts with minors are voidable is because teenagers make foolish decisions like Ariel did and sign away their freedom in the proverbial deal with the devil.

Second, Ursula had a duty of good faith and fair dealing, something that is implicit in every contract. Even an evil villain is not exempt from it. Ursula had an obligation to allow Ariel to act unimpeded in her quest to win over Prince Eric. Ursula failed to do this because she and her agents set up obstacles precluding Ariel from fulfilling the terms of the contract. It was her eels that tipped over the row boat right before Eric and Ariel were about to kiss. And Ursula herself bewitched the Prince to stop Ariel from kissing him. I’m just surprised that she took off after Eric and Ursula instead of looking for a competent legal adviser to help her examine her legal options at that point. The movie wouldn’t have been quite as endearing, but it would have a lot more education to the vast hordes of American children who watch it. But I digress; in any case, Ariel would have been released from fulfilling her obligations because Ursula significantly breached her duty of good faith under the contract. Furthermore, even if Ariel was in breach of her contract, Ursula would not have been able to get specific performance of her contract. It is a legal maxim that he who seeks equity must seek to do equity. Ursula had unclean hands and therefore she would have only been entitled to monetary damages.

Lastly, as King of the Sea, Triton could have declared the contract void ab initio because it was contrary to public policy. In the same way that courts hesitate to enforce contracts between criminals, Triton could have decided that it was bad public policy to allow penalty clauses in contracts that require the defaulting party to be turned into a diminutive sea creature and become a possession. I certainly can’t see any value in allowing such provisions to be enforceable, but then again, I’m not a merperson, and I don’t necessary understand the Law of the Sea.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Original Epilogue of the Harry Potter Series

I have a friend who knows someone who works for Scholastic and apparently the last Harry Potter book was to have a different epilogue then the one they actually published. Through sheer tenacity and good luck, the original has fallen into my hands. Without further adieu, here is the original epilogue:

Harry awoke to a sharp pounding on the door that matched the pounding in his head. For a few moments, he felt disoriented and unsure of where he was exactly. The worn blue sofa on which he lay, as well as the low metal table in front of him, was littered with empty Butterbeer and Firewhiskey bottles. Harry was cognizant of a peculiar fragrance emitting from an ashtray in which lay the remains of some bitter herb. From the matching smell of his breath, Harry surmised that he must have enjoyed the mallowsweet the night before. The annoying pounding on the door hadn’t ceased, so Harry started to search the worn-out pockets of his dirty, beer-stained robes for his wand. “Just a second,” he called out weakly as he picked up the wand from the floor where it had fallen. “Alohomora!” he said, surprising himself that he could do such a dexterous wand flick considering the state he was in.

The door swung open to reveal Neville. “Thanks. I forgot my key again,” he said breathlessly as he entered the room. “Of course, it would be a lot easier if you just let me Apparate here at will. I mean, I know you like your privacy and all, but I just thought that—well, you know—that because this is my house—don’t get angry again Harry, I’m just telling you how I feel—I think I should be allowed to Apparate into it.”

“C’mon Neville,” Harry said, rubbing his forehead. He hadn’t felt a pain like this for the past nineteen years. Not since before he had destroyed the Horcrux that had been attached to his soul and killed Lord Voldemort. The difference between his current pain and the prior pain, however, was that instead of being privy to the thoughts of an evil wizard, all he could remember was a haze of smoke, alcohol and Romilda Vane. “I’m saved your life enough times. I think you should try to be a little bit more grateful. Besides, you have to remember I was the one who helped you get your cushy little job up at Hogwarts—some friend you are. But…I’m only going to stay for a few days longer. You know the situation between Ginny and me.”

Neville frowned slightly and hesitated before answering with a shrug. “Well Harry, a few more days should be okay. But I’m going back up to Hogwarts soon and I’ve already promised Viktor Krum and his wife that it would be okay for them to stay here while he does some work for the Ministry.”

Harry scowled at the mention of the word Ministry. “I don’t know why those folks at the Ministry are so willing to employ foreigners when they don’t mind letting go of loads of us English wizards,” he muttered darkly. “By the way, Neville, were you up before Romilda left? I didn’t hear her leave.”

“She must have left right after I did. Which reminds me…” Neville’s voiced trailed off a bit. Harry could tell that Neville was uncomfortable and was deciding whether voicing his complaint would be worth it or not. “Harry, I know this might sound insignificant to you, but—uh—in the future could you ask you female friends not to leave their, uh,…the truth is Harry that it’s a bit disconcerting to wake up and find a strange witch’s underclothes strewn about the bathroom. Not that Romilda is strange mind you,” he said, his face looking as though he thought that Harry was growing increasingly hostile to his suggestion.

Harry snorted. “You’re as bad as Ginny, sometimes. All you do is nag, nag, nag. But—and I’m only doing this because I like you—I’ll tell her not to do it anymore. Besides, I don’t think she’ll be coming by much longer. I don’t fancy her as much as I used to anymore—it’s probably a good time to move on anyways. Well, I’ll help you clean up this mess a bit before I pop down to Knockturn Alley for a pint. I don’t want you telling people that I’m a deadbeat.” Harry stood up, his legs unsteady and his head still pounding. “My head’s killing me. I think I’ll need a bit of mallowsweet to get me started though. You have any left?”

Neville shook his head. “I’m shouldn’t really be giving you any. I’ve heard rumors that the Department of Magical Law Enforcement is planning an anti-mallowsweet campaign. Plus I’m worried that if Headmistress McGonagall found out that I had the second year students grow it for you, I’d get the sack.”

“McGonagall, McGonagall,” Harry sneered sarcastically. “You’re starting to sound like a broken Howler. Don’t worry about it. I’ll just clean without it. Evanesco!!” The empty bottles and ashtray vanished. “This used to be a lot easier before they liberated all the House Elves. At the rates those elves charge for their services these days, you’d be flat broke in a month. Anyways, I’m off Neville. I’ll be back in time for dinner. And for goodness sake, when I get home, make sure that you don’t burn it all again. There’s nothing worse than carbonized shepherd’s pie.” Neville nodded slowly as Harry pushed passed him and out onto the street.

Knockturn Alley had changed significantly since Harry had first stumbled upon it before his second year at Hogwarts. Long gone were the stores that sold Dark Arts paraphernalia; Borgin & Burkes, the last holdout, had recently been turned into an upscale health club for well-healed wizarding families and most of the other businesses similarly catered to a more wealthy demographic. Despite the redevelopment, a few of the original non-Dark Arts businesses had managed to survive. Close to the end of the alley, tucked in between a Twilfit & Tatting’s Custom Robe Outfitters and a new Wagstaff’s Wands Outlet, the new American wand manufacturer, was Harry’s favorite pub, the Toe and Slug. Although he had long been a patron of the Leaky Cauldron for many years, certain bad events had pushed Harry into seeking out a new establishment for his business. And since he had moved out from Grimmauld Place, the Toe and Slug sometimes seemed like the only home he had. As he pulled the old door open, the smell of old Firewhiskey filled his nostrils. Relishing the opportunity to indulge his favorite beverage, Harry eagerly entered.

The pub looked even more rundown on the inside than it did on the outside. A few motley wizards sat at a dilapidated table covered with pewter jugs and half-eaten food, close to a small fireplace in the corner, intent on a game of gobstones. An old hag was slumped over in a wooden chair close to the wall, her snores sounding like a Hungarian Horntail clearing its throat. Behind the bar stood Stan Shunpike casually flipping through the pages of the Daily Prophet. Not far from where he stood, a red-haired man sat quietly sipping from a mug of butterbeer that sat in front of him.

“Hey Ron!” Harry called.

Ronald Weasley gave his head a slight nod to acknowledge his friend. “Hey Harry!”

“How’re Hermione and the kids?” Harry asked as he sat on the stool next to Ron.

“They're doing all right. Hugo is starting at Hogwarts in a couple of weeks. I’m supposed to pick up a thing or two for him today, but I got distracted as usual.”

Harry smiled. “I know what you mean. Let’s just hope that Hermione doesn’t find out how you spend most of you day.”

“She probably already knows what I do most days. She doesn’t mind as long as I stay out of trouble. She’d be happy if I found work, but I watch the kids while she spends her day at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement—speaking of which, you still using mallowsweet? You’d better get rid of it. Hermione told me that they’re thinking about a crackdown. Seems they want to change the rules so that you can only use it with a centaur’s permission.” Harry nodded glumly, but didn’t reply. He considered asking Firenze for help, but wondered if the old centaur was too much of a straight arrow to help him out. Harry’s thoughts were interrupted by an arrogant voice behind him.

“Potter and Weasley,” it said. “I thought I could smell your peculiar odor from outside.” Harry and Ron turned around to see a blond, though balding, wizard standing behind them, his hands on his hips, his upper lip twisted into a sneer. The room was tense for a moment before he broke out into a chuckle. “Was I really that much of a jerk at school?”

Harry gave Draco Malfoy a good-natured pat on the back as he sat down. “We can’t really blame you. We were all immature back then and kids can be so nasty to each other,” he said, he said with a shrug. “Although a round of butterbeers would help make Ron and I feel better,” he added with a sly smile. Malfoy nodded at Stan and soon the filled glasses sat in front of them.

“A toast,” Malfoy said, raising his mug, “A toast—you too Stan, lift a glass—to the two best Aurors ever laid off the Ministry.” They clinked their mugs together and each of them took a long draught of the beer.

Ron smacked his lips after the cool liquid had drained down his throat. “Not bad—though I prefer Firewhiskey. It’s got more of a kick to it. Let’s have a round of that Stan!”

A few hours, and several pints, later, Harry and his friends found themselves more than a little tipsy. Though his friends appeared to be in high spirits, with each drink, Harry found his mood growing darker and darker. “Wait a second,” he said, interrupting Malfoy’s refutation of Ron’s theory that the Chudley Cannons were due for a turn around that year. “Ron, Malfoy, you know where I went wrong.” He paused to belch. “I shouldn’t have killed Voldemort so young. You just can’t do something that famous when you’re young. While he was alive, I was the Boy Who Lived. After he was gone I became the Man Who Nobody Cared About. He defined me—he made me a hero—he made me somebody. At age seventeen you fight evil and conquer it—then what? You got sixty years to try and match that. And what happens? You get sixty years to sit around and think about how great the first twenty were. Sixty years of hell.” Ron and Malfoy exchanged uncomfortable glances at each other, but said nothing. Neither of them dared say anything when Harry’s mood turned sour. Harry was completely oblivious to them as he continued his slurred rant. “Sure some people still wave and nod at me, but who really cares about Harry Potter these days? You work hard for fifteen years, putting your neck on the line every day fighting the Dark Arts and then what? The Ministry decides that the Dark Arts aren’t as much as a threat as they used to be and with wizards clamoring for reducing taxes and cutting costs, what choice do they have? You’re out saving the world one day and the next day your boss comes and tells you that there’s an overabundance of Aurors and that the older, more expensive ones are being let go. Of course, they thank you for your service with a shiny plaque and hand you a few galleons to tide you over until your next job.”

“Harry—“ Ron began, but Harry cut him off.

“Next thing you know, you’re stuck at home every day with nothing but Firewhiskey and bad memories for company, trying to get along with a wife who feels you’ve invaded her space and who can’t understand what you’re going through.” He took a long hard swill from mug of Butterbeer, finished the last of it. He slammed the mug down and attempted to stand. As he stood up, his legs gave way and he would have fallen if Stan hadn’t cast a levitating spell right on him that moment. “Thanks Stan,” he said weakly before the half-fermented contents of his stomach ended up on the floor.

His friends stood up beside him. “We’ll take over from here, Stan,” Ron said, grabbing a napkin from the bar to wipe Harry’s face. “We’ll get him home.” Both he and Malfoy grabbed one of Harry’s arms as the three of them stumbled out of the bar and out into the glitzy fa├žade that was Knockturn Alley.

A few days later, Harry stood waiting impatiently on Platform 9 ¾. The platform itself was swarming with kids, wizards, witches, owls, luggage and a house elf or two. He looked at his watch, then up at the platform clock and then scanned the crowd once again for any sign of his wife or children. Ginny’s late as usual, he thought with a frown. If she didn’t get there soon, James and Albus wouldn’t make the train. He scratched his neck. He hadn’t done any shaving charms in the past few days and his facial hair had become long enough that it was starting to get itchy.

As he stood there, fighting the urge to pace back and forth, he heard a voice cry out from behind him. “Uncle Harry!” He turned to see his niece, Rose running towards him, with Ron, Hermione and Hugo close behind. He scooped Rose up and gave her a big hug.

“How are you?” he said as he put her down.

She looked up at him, her brown eyes twinkling. “Sad. Hugo’s going to Hogwarts and Mum and Da’ won’t let me go with ‘im.”

“You’ll get to go soon enough. Hello, Ron, Hugo…Hermione.” He said the last name in a neutral voice. Hermione looked at him coolly, but said nothing. Ever since she had run into him and Hannah Abbott in a compromising situation at the Leaky Cauldron a couple of years back, she had been decidedly less then friendly. Harry surmised that she hadn’t said anything to Ron about the whole mess, but it always made meetings with her uncomfortable.

“Waiting on Ginny?” Ron asked.

“Yeah,” Harry replied. “Just want to say goodbye to my boys before they go to Hogwarts. I haven’t seen them in a few months. Ginny and I get into big arguments if I go over to Grimmauld Place—I’d rather our kids not see that—and Ginny won’t let them visit over at Neville’s, so this is one of my few opportunities.” He glanced down at his watch again before looking at Ron and Hermione’s oldest. “So what house do you think you’ll be sorted into?”

“I hope I’m put in Gryffindor, you know, like you and Mum and Dad.”

Harry nodded. “I guess you’ll find out tonight.” He looked up and saw Ginny struggling to bring three children with their luggage along the platform. “There she is.”

“We’ll get going then,” Ron said. “You probably want to be alone with them.” He beckoned for his family to follow him and they were soon lost in the crowd.

Ginny was huffing and her face was flushed from the effort of marshalling three children by herself. Her face maintained a measure of her good looks, but the birth of three children had been less than kind to her body. Her red hair was hastily tied up in a pony tail and a few stray wisps of hair had managed to escape in her hurry. “How are you Harry?” she managed to say between breaths.

“Fine,” he replied, a little more curt than he intended. He turned his attention on the two boys and girl that stood in front of him. “How are you doing? Are you nervous, Albus?” His oldest son nodded. “I was nervous the first time I went. I didn’t even know how to get onto the right platform, but your Nana Weasley helped me out.” His son nodded once again, but remained silent. Harry had found it increasingly difficult to talk to his son and his estrangement from his wife didn’t help the situation.

Ginny broke the awkward silence. “He’s worried about which house he’ll be sorted into. He doesn’t want be put in Slytherin.”

“No son of mine is going to be in Slytherin.” Harry said, wagging his index finger in his son’s face. “If word comes back to me that the Sorting Hat has put you into that nasty house, there’ll be hell to pay at Hogwarts. That stupid hat almost put me in Slytherin. Sure there are a couple exceptions, but for the most part, kids in Slytherin are a bunch of sniveling—“

“Harry!” his wife’s voice rang out. “Albus is already worried enough as it is. Have a heart!”

Harry gave his wife a hard look and kept quiet for a moment. “Well,” he said, in a low voice, as if the words were being pulled out of him. “Good luck, son. You’ll be fine whatever house you end up in.” He glanced at his wife to see if the answer was acceptable to her. “Run along, kids. I need to say a few things to your mother in private before I leave.” Harry’s children slowly moved down the platform seemingly lost as to where exactly they should go.

“Well, Harry?” Ginny asked. “Where have you been staying?”

“I’m over at Neville’s. It’s been great catching up with him after all these years,” Harry replied. “And now that he’s headed back up to Hogwarts, I’ve got the place all to myself.”

Ginny winced, as if Harry had kicked her in the shins. “I hoped that it wouldn’t have to have come to this, but I’ve been down to speak to my solicitor and I think it might be better if we make this separation more permanent.”

Although he was not surprised by his wife’s feelings, Harry wasn’t sure how to respond. At some levels, it was exactly what he wanted, but it still didn’t stop the intense feeling of loss he had whenever he thought of the possibility of divorce. “Let’s not cross that bridge until we come to it. I’m just trying to work some things out and I need some more time to do that.”

“We can’t wait forever, Harry,” Ginny said. “Albus and James need a father in their life. We’ve—I’ve—been waiting for years. I don’t think we can wait much longer.”

Harry paused and looked around at the crowded platform, as if he had just noticed the throng around them for the first time. “This isn’t the best place or time to discuss this…” He hesitated for a moment before adding, “I’ll stop by later tonight. Say goodbye to the kids for me.” Ginny’s mouth twisted, but she said nothing as Harry slowly turned and walked away.

As he trudged down the platform, a solitary figure in a solitary world, he reached up, almost unconsciously, and gingerly touched the scar on his forehead. It didn’t hurt like it used to, but it had never completely healed. And much like the emotional scars that marred his psyche from which he could not escape, Harry felt his scar made him a marked man, doomed to wander the world, with his only success years behind him and nothing but emptiness and hurt in his future.

Despite his feelings of hopelessness, or maybe because of them, Harry smiled in spite of himself, and once more touched his scar.