Could a changing perception of the attributes of dragons be a spark of hope for a better world?
I know that may sound a little ridiculous. Particularly for those who see dragons as a myth instead of a possibility.
However, when long-held beliefs start to change and minds begin to open, the doors to acceptance and empathy open.
Surely more of those qualities would make a better world.
The fascinating thing about dragons is how differently they are depicted throughout the planet. And throughout history.
Like unicorns, they are mythological creatures. That’s where the similarity ends.
Unicorns always look like white horses with horns and (sometimes) wings, while dragons come in all shapes, sizes and colours.
Unicorns are universally seen as magical creatures symbolising miracles, purity, innocence and enchantment.
Dragons, on the other hand, are seen by some as wise and powerful protectors that bring luck and wisdom, and by others as evil monsters that need to be slain.
PERCEPTION OF POWER – THE GOOD
In the Far East dragons symbolise great wisdom and spirituality. The gods are said to have descended from the sky inside the belly of a dragon.
The Eastern dragon is not the gruesome monster of medieval imagination but the genius of strength and goodness. He is the spirit of change, and therefore of life itself….Hidden in the caverns of inaccessible mountains, or coiled in the unfathomed depths of the sea, he awaits the time when he slowly rouses himself into activity. He unfolds himself in the storm clouds; washes his mane in the blackness of the seething whirlpools. His claws are in the fork of the lightning, his scales begin to glisten in the bark of rain swept pine trees. His voice is heard in the hurricane, which, scattering the withered leaves of the forest, quickens a new spring.
Okakura – The Awakening of Japan.
PERCEPTION OF POWER – THE BAD
European dragons, however, are often seen as malevolent, evil beings – the natural enemies of humans.
Dragons even get unfavourable mention in the New Testament – referred to as the devil.
He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
The Old Testament also mentions a dragon, called Leviathan, but in more favourable terms.
Nothing on earth is like him, One made without fear. He looks on everything that is high; He is king over all the sons of pride.
(NASB) Job 41:33-34
Unfortunately, they had a fall from grace and the influence of the Bible stories made them an enemy fit to kill (if you could) for centuries after.
There has been a change of attitude towards these magnificent mythical creatures in recent times.
PERCEPTION OF POWER – THE CHANGE
In the children’s movie, Pete’s Dragon (2016), the dragon, Elliott, is a hero who saves a young boy. It is the humans (at least those destroying the environment and trying to kill the dragon) that are depicted as evil.
Could this change of heart see a new surge in humans taking responsibility for their actions, instead of looking for a scapegoat (or dragon) to blame for the evil in the world?
At the very least it shows an opening of minds, a consideration of possibilities other than perceptions that have been handed down through history.
In the movie, a remake of a 1977 movie by the same name, when Elliott is provoked, he becomes a fierce and powerful fire-breathing dragon in all its glory.
He has the same power as the dragons of the past who inspired stories of heroes such as Saint George the dragon slayer.
However, instead of seeing that power as something to be feared, a manifestation of evil, we are being shown another aspect.
The picture, or perception, we may have had is being challenged. We begin to see the shades of grey which reduces our fear and allows room for empathy.
We are shown that if we let go of our fear and our urge to conquer, we can accommodate that power and maybe even work with it, instead of against it.
This story, along with others, is challenging perceptions that stem from before the 13th century when the tale of Saint George became popularized.
PERCEPTION OF POWER TODAY
Now, imagine a world where we could change our perception of power from other sources we fear.
Imagine if we could open our minds and hearts enough to chase away the fear that power represents and find the grey areas, places that offer possibility.
Instead of looking to slay our modern-day monsters, maybe we should be working on understanding if not acceptance.
If we can change our perception of the ‘evil’ power of dragons that we believed about for centuries, how hard can it be to change our thinking in relation to today’s fears?
If you believe, as I do, that hatred stems from fear, then it is easy to see the importance of changing our perception of the powers that cause that fear.
“In time we hate that which we often fear.” – William Shakespeare
In order to change the world, maybe we need to start by changing our perception and being open to the areas of grey.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if changing views about a mythical creature became the impetus to start this transformation?
Don’t believe in dragons? I’ll leave you with this quote from neuroscientist and artist Beau Lotto.
Either there are no illusions or everything is an illusion
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.