Today, I’ve been pondering the Pensieve. One of J.K. Rowling’s inventions in the Potterverse, it is a bowl with various runes carved into it; magic allows one to draw silvery threads of thought out of one’s head and put them into this basin.
The purpose is twofold. The first is that when one’s head is too full of thoughts, some of them can be unloaded. Imagine how useful: remove the thought when you need to stop replaying your worst memory in your head; when you need to focus on one task instead of a dozen others; when you can’t sleep for anxiety; when you have so many ideas to ponder that you cannot pick and follow a single train of thought to its terminus.
Typically, though, we only see it used (in the books, at least) to examine memories – an extremely plot-convenient film reel or record of events, made shareable through the magic of the Pensieve, and more exact than life.
Useful though it sounds, I don’t typically long for a Pensieve. The act of picking out which thoughts to remove, to line up, to examine – that is organization enough for my Muggle purposes. I also imagine that removing the first two or three thoughts could render one unable to recall which other thoughts one had wanted to cull and examine.
On the other hand, there are thoughts I wish I could erase or delete or scrub away with brain bleach. The objects we perceive are grist for the mill of our cogitation, memory, and imagination; and only that which has been milled by the internal senses can contribute to our intellect and understanding. Thus the things I see, the stories or articles I read, the words or music I hear, all become a part of me.
I should take far greater care for what grist enters the mill of my mind.
And so it bears mentioning that while I hunted for a picture of this thoughtbowl – look how decorative! – other basins came to mind, specifically baptismal fonts. I don’t believe Rowling meant to allude to the sacrament of baptism with her cogitation-basin, but I reckon that the baptismal font is the best help available for management of our thoughts and our inner life.
Luther’s Large Catechism reads as follows:
These two parts, to be sunk under the water and drawn out again, signify the power and operation of Baptism, which is nothing else than putting to death the old Adam, and after that the resurrection of the new man, both of which must take place in us all our lives, so that a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be practised without ceasing, that we ever keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and that that which belongs to the new man come forth.
But what is the old man? It is that which is born in us from Adam, angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, yea, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good in it.
Now, when we are come into the kingdom of Christ, these things must daily decrease, that the longer we live we become more gentle, more patient, more meek, and ever withdraw more and more from unbelief, avarice, hatred, envy, haughtiness.
What a litany. Angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, unbelieving, infected with all vices. True, true, true, true, and true. I need much more than the removal of this or that unhealthy story, rude joke, vacuous song, or meaningless article. I need nothing less than the washing of regeneration for all my thoughts, each and every day.
Baptism is not a one-time event. It is the power of God to drown that Old Adam daily. The thoughts put in to the baptismal font will either be redeemed, or they will be eradicated.