My father introduced me to a world of fairytales and lovely poetry that wove word pictures in my childlike mind. I imagined life in the times of King Arthur and Guinevere. His stories of Atlantis spoke of near perfection in the human spirit only to be destroyed. Fantasy exposed me to unicorns and dragons that somehow both seemed exciting and possible in my childlike reasoning. To this day I am fascinated by such tales and even the history of times when much of this is said to have actually unfolded. Instead I know that there are no such things as described in legend but a different sort of unicorns and dragons live in our midst nonetheless. They are not mythical creatures but very real indeed and just as beautiful and frightening as we imagine those creatures to be.
Today’s dragons are humans who have cold hearts and feed on others to wield their power and ability to frighten and confuse. Like all such creatures they are more interested in themselves than in others and they thrive on intimidation. Their brains are fixated on feeding their own egos and appetites rather than learning how to share and adapt to a peaceful community. History has seen many horrifying dragons and even today we know they exist. They are the spawn of selfishness and hatred. They eliminate anyone and any group that threatens their ascendancy over others. It takes a village and more often a unicorn to expose and defeat them.
Unicorns are rare, lovely, gentle creatures in our midst who are unafraid to fight for justice. They are heroes like Abraham Lincoln and Rosa Parks who are willing to face incarceration and even death to defend the abused and suffering among us. Sometimes they never become famous beyond the confines of their own tiny worlds but those who encounter them recognize them for their unique beauty and courage. They are the voices that shout sometimes unpopular and inconvenient truths to the world. They are glorious in their righteousness and unswerving allegiance to all that is good. Sometimes we call them angels among us or saints after they have left this earth.
St. George was supposed to have slayed a dragon. The legend tells us that the dragon dominated the people of a village, demanding tribute of livestock to feed its ever growing appetite. When he had devoured all of the food that there was he decreed that the citizens must send him a human sacrifice each year. When the creature eventually selected a beloved princess St. George freed her and killed the dragon as well, saving the people form the horrific cycle of servitude that had so devastated their lives.
Dragons vary in their fame. Some dragons are quietly cruel inside the confines of a home. Children and spouses have endured the fate of living with a dragon. Dragons may be bosses or teachers or police officers who use their power to demean and hurt under the guise of being helpers. Some dragons kill with words while others are actually murderous and lusting for blood. They are the stuff of nightmares and are so cagey that we sometimes do not know they are even among us until we are bowing under their threats of evil.
I have personally known many unicorns. They are beautiful souls who do not hesitate to run into the lurch to save the people around them. The earliest unicorn I ever witnessed in action was a neighbor named Kathleen who saved a group of children whose dragon father had just murdered their mother. Two decades later I witnessed another unicorn facing down another dragon who was beating the members of his family in view of the entire neighborhood. I watched a fellow teacher unicorn stand before the faculty and defiantly boast of his homosexuality in a time when doing such a thing was dangerous for him. He not only survived but was revered for his courage. I had the pleasure of being a friend to a unicorn named Bren who dedicated her entire life to educating us about equality and justice.
I suppose that the world will never be entirely free of dragons. Of late it feels as though they are coming from their lairs in greater and greater numbers. It is like an invasion not unlike the unleashing of hordes of cicadas that happens every seventeen years. Dragons are all around us and some of them are tiny viruses that invade our bodies. Others are despots who invade our minds. We sense that we need unicorns more than ever because there is danger all around.
Who will our unicorns be? From whence will they come? Surely they are not extinct but rather simply waiting for the moment when they know they must appear. There are rustlings telling us that they are on their way. As far back as mankind has recorded history they have joined our frays and been victorious in beating back the dragons. I have every confidence that they will not abandon us now.