Business & Leadership

J.K. Rowling and the Magic of Empathy

An influence on a whole generation, winner of numerous honors and awards, and the author of the world-renowned Harry Potter series of books, J.K. Rowling believes that is our actions and not our abilities that define who we are. Rowling – considered one of the most engaged and philanthropic celebrities in today’s world – definitely applies the concept to her own life.

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An influence on a whole generation, winner of numerous honors and awards, and the author of the world-renowned Harry Potter series of books, J.K. Rowling believes that is our actions and not our abilities that define who we are. Rowling – considered one of the most engaged and philanthropic celebrities in today’s world – definitely applies the concept to her own life.


The life of Joanne Rowling – whose Harry Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies worldwide – is a story that many draw inspiration from. After her marriage imploded she found herself a single parent, suffering from clinical depression, jobless and living on state benefits. Nevertheless, she managed to go from living in poverty to being a multimillionaire in five years. For Rowling, failure was the turning point that made her strive for a better life; as the author stated in her speech to Harvard graduates in 2005 “by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew … and so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

 

Many experiences reshaped her character. When she was nine, her grandmother Katherine passed away, she would later on add her grandmother’s initial to her writer pseudonym J. K. Rowling. At fifteen her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, deteriorating at a slow but regular pace and finally dying years later at the age of 45. Finally, during her university studies she worked at Amnesty International, where she was in constant exposure to terrible situations happening around the world – especially in Africa. She would later reveal in an interview that one of the most shocking moments during her time working for AI was when a politician was informed of her mother being assassinated by government officials as a response to his cooperation with the NGO, in her own words the scream was of such “pain and horror … as I have never heard since.” She said. She would later describe the experience as one that helped her be aware of everything happening in the world and feeling grateful for being born in the First World.

 

All these experiences would influence both the causes she would later choose to get involved with, as well as her writing. In her books, there are many signs of the struggles the author went through during her life, the best example takes the form of a dementors, a creature that suck happiness out of a person leaving only sorrow and loneliness. Nevertheless, the hopeful-spirited Rowling would create a counter measure: the patronus spell, the materialization of a happy memory that would immediately repel the creature. She believes that apathy toward terrible injustices happening in the world is as bad or even worse than the actual people causing it, and fame and fortune hasn’t stopped her from giving a voice to those who don’t have one, as well as encouraging others to do so. A premise through which she lives her life having spent, it is estimated, more than 16% of her personal fortune on charity, losing for a couple of months the status of billionaire, according to Forbes. Moreover, the author has written additional material for the Harry Potter series donating all profits to charities, such as the multiple sclerosis society or Heifer international.

 

Despite being in constant contact with the terrible realities happening every day, the hopeful Rowling Is definitely a believer that change can be achieved and is involved with more than seventeen causes, including fighting multiple sclerosis, family and parent support, poverty and mental problems. One of her more famous charities is Lumos a non-governmental organization that helps institutionalized children to find a family. The name Lumos is a direct reference to her books and alludes to a spell which creates light. This shows her optimistic attitude towards injustice around the world which can be found in her writing, and as one of the famous quotes from Harry Potter notes: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

 

N. V.

 

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