Everything is white. The floor, the columns, the benches. Even the barely conceivable ceiling, which is so flooded with light, it’s hard to tell structure from illusion.
Harry is at King’s Cross station. Back where it all began.
Except it’s so much…cleaner. No tracks, no trains, no litter. Not even a speck of grey on the walls. It’s all, just, bright. Illuminated.
The train station has been transformed. From a place of uncertainty and adventure into some kind of shelter. A refuge to find clarity in.
On one of the benches sits Dumbledore. Smiling. Waiting. One last conversation. A few final pieces of advice to share.
Harry knows what’s about to happen is important. But he can also sense this isn’t his final destination. He asks Dumbledore:
“I have to go back, haven’t I?”
“Oh, that’s up to you.”
“I have a choice?”
“Oh yeah. We’re in King's Cross, you say. I think if you so desired, you’d be able to board a train.”
“And where would it take me?”
Dumbledore’s face cracks into a smile. He chuckles. His eyes open wide as he leans in and says:
He gets up and slowly walks away, towards the light at the end of the platform. But Harry has many more questions.
“What about…? And why did…?”
It could go on for hours, but Dumbledore is out of time.
“I’ll be going now, Harry.”
Just before his friend disappears into the light, Harry blurts out:
If only he can get the answer to one, final question. Dumbledore turns around.
“Is this all real? Or is it just happening inside my head?”
The wind catches the headmaster’s robe. He looks around the bright, white space.
“Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean that it’s not real?”
All children do is imagine. They imagine, and then they paint the world in the colors they see inside their brilliant minds. When adults imagine, our most common reaction is to laugh at them.
“What do YOU know about painting?”
“That idea is ridiculous.”
“You can’t do that.”
And, my favorite: “That’s not how the world works.”
Yes. That’s exactly how the world works. 5,000 years ago, there was nothing but nature, animals, and a few roaming, primitive humans. Then, they started imagining. Look where we are today.
Our heroes may not be real, but as long as we believe it, what they give us always is.
We get lost in a story, and we emerge with inspiration, strength, patience, resilience, and resolve. Most of all, we return with new courage to imagine. Transient thoughts, real consequences.
So no. Books, games, music, art, movies - none of these are real. They’re just a trip inside your mind. But if it’s the right journey at the right time, there’s nothing more powerful to show you your destiny.
PS: If you’d like to dive deeper into this story, quotes, and topic, I wrote a 9-minute essay last year called All These Flaws You See In Yourself Aren’t Real.
About Thought Experiment Thursday: Einstein said we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Science estimates we have about 35 thoughts per minute. That’s a lot of chances to change our thinking. So on Thursdays, that’s what we’ll practice.
A question opens the mind. A statement closes it. Let’s keep ours wide open.
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