Prisoner of Azkaban

The Prisoner of Identity – or Azkaban

For a Mother’s Day weekend treat, last weekend my son Samuel (6) and I watched Harry Potter. Not just any Harry Potter, Samuel is working his way through them and we’re now up to the third one, which starts to get a bit darker and more adult in theme – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s interesting watching Samuel starting to get his mind round the bigger concepts as the films get darker, and his tongue round the more complicated language. We had several stabs at pronouncing Azkaban together before we reached one we could agree on, and even then he kept reverting to his original reading.

Harry Potter seems to be in the news at the moment, there’s certainly something current about the concepts. I read an article in the Guardian recently making the comparison between Voldemort and Donald Trump, saying that for the Potter generation, the metaphor is an apt one. However, back to Samuel and me.

It was right at the end and it was getting late, time to serve up the supper that had been bubbling away, but I stayed watching the film with him because it was the exciting climax, the bit where Harry Potter is nearly defeated by the Dementers, and Sirius Black, the aforementioned Prisoner, is going down with him. There has been a reversal of expectations during the film – I don’t want to be a spoiler for anyone who wants to revisit this great movie – but suffice to say baddies and goodies are not what they seem. So, as Harry is certain to be defeated – and here indeed is the spoiler alert – he is saved by his father, appearing to him across the lake in the form of a deer made of light. Hooray. Phew. End of movie surely. All we need is a couple of wrap up scenes.

Cut to the infirmary, where our heroes, Harry, Hermione and Ron, are recovering from their adventures. But something isn’t right – an investigation is needed. Harry and Hermione exploit a time worm hole and go back to see what really happened. They follow their past selves to the lake – watching the scene from the other side as the Dementers swirl around Harry, threatening to take him down. Harry, from his new vantage point on this side of the lake, realises that it is down to him to save himself. He reaches out his wand and casts a spell of light. The Dementers flail and are sucked into the light vortex. Harry saves himself. So in fact, it wasn’t his father saving him from the other side of the lake. It was future Harry, saving past Harry.

The next day was Mother’s Day and Samuel and I were on a trip across London to see my mother. We debated the film, and I wanted to see how he had processed it. “So,” I said “do you think it is possible for your future self to save your past self – or in fact can your past self save your future self?” Samuel was sceptical. I talked about what might happen say for example if someone said something nasty to him in the playground a month ago, and then if today he found out that that person was having a bad time at the moment. Would it be possible for his future self – himself now – to go back to him a month ago and pat him on the shoulder and tell him that everything was ok and not to worry? At that point Samuel got distracted by the fact that the foxes had been at a rubbish bag and we dropped the conversation.

But I was wondering, was this in fact what we are trying to achieve with Mental Snapp? When you record a video diary, you are building a bank of present self moments. But each time you build them, the previous one recedes into the past. And are you building them with a concept of your future self – your future recordings – in mind? I suppose in a way you are. And when you are recording a Mental Snapp, you are clocking in with yourself for the wisest two minutes of your day – the bit where you talk to yourself, bank self knowledge for yourself, find that you already have the answers. So, to the extent that this metaphor holds true, your Mental Snapp persona is a repository of the potential of your past and future selves. Of course they can save each other. If ever there was a part of you with the power to save, and you wanted to access it, you could access it here.

I’d like to think that we are building those possibilities for our users. I’d like to think that people who have been Prisoners of Identity – or Prisoners of Azkaban – can escape their fixed ‘goodie’ or ‘baddie’ role and find the opportunity to empathise with and save themselves. If we treat ourselves with compassion, we only do what we know we want to do for others. And if you want to save others, first save yourself.

Thank you Samuel for a wonderful Mother’s Day – and a valuable lesson in time travel. And for anyone who wants to experience time travel on a daily basis, I suggest you make a diary – or make a Mental Snapp.

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