Maybe “yin and yang” isn’t quite the right term to describe the relation between these stories. Maybe there isn’t any relation between them at all. Maybe they are just two stories, each being what each is. Still, somehow they seem to say something about the polar ends of the human condition, not that I know what the two ends consist of, nor what value should be attached to each end.
The June 23 issue of Time magazine featured a cover story, “Why Harry Potter rules,” all about J.K. Rowling and her fabulously successful series of five Harry Potter books. I’ve only made it partway through the first book—must be getting too old for this sort of reading, though “Lord of the Rings” captivated me as a near-adult—but admire Rowling’s ability to create a whole fresh world of magic, and keep it up through so many volumes. After reading the cover story, I found another reason to admire her.
Catie Hoch is a girl with a rapidly spreading cancer that began in her kidneys. During her chemotherapies and operations she began reading the Harry Potter books. Then, Nancy Gibbs, who wrote the cover story, says, “In January 2000, when it seemed as if her treatment options had run out, Catie was back home, her chances of living to read Book 4 looking very slim. That is when an e-mail arrived form someone in Britain who had heard about the 8-year-old girl in New York who loved Harry so much.” The author, J.K. Rowling, kept writing to Catie.
“Gina [her mother] watched the friendship unfold, watched a stuffed owl and a toy ginger cat arrive in the mail as gifts. ‘I couldn’t believe it when the first e-mail arrived, but what I really couldn’t believe was that they kept it up,’ she says.” Then, the cover story ends with this, which I found most moving:
“A month after Catie Hoch’s ninth birthday, doctors found that the cancer had spread to her brain and that she had only a few weeks left. That was when the phone rang. Over the next few days, Rowling read aloud to Catie from Book 4, which was finally finished but would not be released until summer…The family resisted putting the call on the speaker phone. ‘That was Catie’s time with Jo,” Gina says. ‘We didn’t want to intrude on their privacy.’ The last few times Rowling called, Catie was too sick to come to the phone. She drifted into a coma and died on May 18, 2000.”
“Rowling wrote to her parents three days later. ‘I consider myself privileged to have had contact with Catie,’ she wrote. ‘I can only aspire to being the sort of parent both of you have been to Catie during her illness. I am crying so hard as I type. She left footprints on my heart all right.’ Catie’s parents established the Catie Hoch Foundation to help young cancer patients. In November a check for $100,000 appeared, from Catie’s favorite English friend.”
And then, for a marked change of gears, we have men hunting naked women in Las Vegas. Fellow humans, we are an interesting species, that’s for sure.