My sister is the smartest girl I know, but even she continues to read “Harry Potter” long after the series has anything meaningful to say about life as she knows it. It’s in this way that Harry Potter is like the Bible, yet a good number of people my age question or even mock the divinity of Jesus while insisting, loudly and with passion, that the books about the boy wizard are the real Gospels, the books to read if you had but one choice.

I’m not exaggerating. Who do you think wrote the following? “At page 699 of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,’ I had to put down the book. My face was already soaked with tears, my body convulsing with hysterical sobs, but on page 699, I had to drop everything and run to the bathroom because I was sure I was going to be sick.” The author, whose convulsions and upset stomach are due presumably to the emotionally traumatic effects of the story and not, say, food poisoning, is a senior arts editor at this publication (Saying goodbye to a ‘Harry Potter’ childhood, 7/4/11.) Just like religion, the Harry Potter affliction doesn’t spare the educated.

But why this obsession? Why does my sister reread and reread and reread the series as if she’s studying for a Hogwarts Placement Exam? Why do senior arts editors convulse and sob and suffer as if possessed by He Who Must Not Be Named?

Because the books tell a fairly compelling story. Not a highly original or perfect story unblemished by clichés or plot holes, but an exciting one that’s easy to devour, easy to fall in love with, easy to consume. I remember our family purchasing a copy of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and my ten year-old self finishing the 734-page book in one day. Oh, it was easy. It was fun. But it didn’t really matter. I could read 700 pages of “Harry Potter” and then get back to the books that were relevant, like the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series. I could get back to reading stories that actually spoke to me about that incurable ailment — the human condition — rather than stories about a good boy battling an evil wizard.

I can almost hear the indignant snorts and see the eyes roll back. I can almost sense the pulses quicken as the believers stew with righteous anger. What about the themes of love and loss, they cry! What about doing what’s right in the face of insurmountable odds? Did we not grow up with this boy? Are we not, in the words of the previously quoted author, “the ‘Harry Potter’ generation, the grade-schoolers who are starting to head out into the real world with the comfort of Hogwarts tucked away inside our minds?”

I used to fight against the idea that the Harry Potter series was the literature of my generation with all the fury of an English teacher whose class insists that the period is an unnecessary punctuation mark. How offensive, I thought, to declare the late nineties and the aughts as belonging to Harry Potter — to actually suggest that the books had anything to do with the real issues going on in our adolescence, our country and our world. How repulsive were those who declared that Harry Potter was alongside us the whole way, how oddly subservient. How blind and silly and stupid, to hold a fantasy series with mundane themes in the highest regard.

Yet in a perverse way, I suppose they are the books of our generation. We know the magical and the ordinary all too well. At the same time that we revel in the fantasy of Facebook, of seeing the private lives of friends and new acquaintances, we slowly realize how depressingly bland statuses are, how trite and boring our personal information is, how cliché all our friends’ favorite sayings are. The effect of this technology — and others — is to make a digital shrine to our collective mediocrity. We live in a world undreamt of just a few generations ago and many of us take advantage of it by staring at useless information for hours. I still have to explain the scale of the universe to many of my peers and I don’t know if they even care. Ours is the “Harry Potter” generation to the extent that we occupy so much of our time with stuff that just doesn’t matter, and Harry, no matter how much we enjoyed him growing up, belongs in that category. Those who worship him would do well to remember the Bible verse that says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Will Grundler is a senior editorial page editor.

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