So, I agree with that article in almost every aspect, and I thik it makes mary good points. But the entire argument relies on the following:
I like to hope that if most of us were handed a magic wand (literally) that removed a lot of the drudgery of modern life, we’d use that extra time in cultural pursuits. We’d read more, write more, take a dance class, go backpack around Europe, etc. We’d produce magical three-dimensional movies, and paintings conjured out of our dreams. Magic would be a tool for knowledge and truth and beauty. And yes, I know that most of us would just watch more TV. But still: magic would (theoretically) give us the opportunity to devote ourselves to the liberal arts, or at least explore them more than our non-magical lives currently allow.
But for the wizards of Harry Potter, magic is an end unto itself.
So the question becomes – why? Why are all of those “cultural” things worth doing, if there is absolutely no drudgery to modern life? What point is there in leisure, if our entire lives are leisure? This is the question Harry Potter accidentally raises but refuses to answer, getting around it by having wizards spend all of their time working in cubicles. Essentially, Rowling turns their lives into drudgery even though there is no need to do so within the logic of the world. She does it anyway.
So what should we take away from this? That Rowling is a bad writer? (Perhaps. In certain respects, she certainly is.) But the other possible interpretation is, that human life cannot be made sense of if there are not certain things we must do in order to survive. If we have no duties, this interpretation says, our lives cease to have meaning.
This interpretation makes a certain amount of sense in a Christian light, actually. God cursed Adam and said he would have to work for his food. This is not just a change to the how easy man’s life is – it was easy, now it’s hard – it is also a change to how human life is correctly structured. In the postlapsarian world, we ought to do work; it is unnatural not to have to struggle to survive.
Any world in which no such struggle is necessary, then, will feel hollow – because that aspect of Adam’s curse has been lifted, but not the part that made it necessary. It’s just like how immortality, it is often said, would be tortuous – because, while in man’s unfallen state he is immortal, fallen man is not capable a good immortality.
In this interpretation, the world of the wizards in J.K. Rowling is somewhat hellish; the wizards have nothing to do, and so they have to occupy themselves with pointless work to distract themselves from how meaningless their lives are.
It would have been fascinating if the books had actually explored this question.