The Dragon Can Be Defeated
I do not usually post or give my opinion on major events that take place in the world, like what took/ is taking place in Ferguson. I generally like to remain quiet and on the side because of how sticky an opinion one way or another can get when discussing something as large as racism and the consequences of certain actions and decisions.
So I was not going to write anything about Ferguson or comment on the decision made last night and the resulting actions that took place. Then I read a post by a friend of mine on Facebook. Among all the rants and extreme opinions coming from both sides he ( a very optimistic person) made a point to post about how things can and will get better. He acknowledged the work it would take but unlike all the other posts that were weighed down with negativity his post was overwhelmingly positive.
His post reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, “Fairytales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” This is the paraphrased version of G. K. Chesterton’s quote from Neil Gaimen’s novel Coraline.
On the wiki-quotes page of Chesterton’s quotations it goes on to say, “Exactly what fairytales does is this: it accustoms him [a child] to a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit…. that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness and stronger than strong fear.” To me this a very powerful statement about the power of fairytales, a power I would extend to almost all stories and for not just children.
I have been an avid reader since I was very young. I found a second home inside the million of universes that sit on my bookshelves and the shelves of libraries and bookstores. Books have always been and will always be an escape for me. They have also always been a way for me to view the world through another’s eyes. When you pick up a book, you are that protagonist or that antagonist. You sit by their side and watch them deal with the trials and tribulations before them. You watch as they learn from their actions and try to change their behaviors. You watch as they stumble and fall and you feel the pain and triumph that they feel. You see that on the last page, somehow, someway that the dragon is defeated. That dragon could be anything from a real dragon or witch to some injustice. But when you close that book somehow that conflict has been resolved.
We all know that not ever story ends with a happily-ever-after and not every one of our favorite characters get the lives they wanted or deserved. But rarely do you close a book where the conflict is not solved or on the road to being solved. The great things about great books and great writers is that if you close the book and it is not the ending you wanted or were hoping for you have the ability to rethink the story and the actions that took place. You can think and understand why they led to the end that they led to. You may not like what you understand but you can understand the results if you pay attention and think through the story. The hero at the end may not have completely slew the dragon but you as the reader can; if you learn from the story you just finished reading.
I intern at a nonprofit whose main goal is to work on raising literacy rates for adults and children. I understand the practical importance of reading. Yes, you have to learn to read words to be able to function in our world, from driving to filling out job applications. But there is so much more to reading than just reading the words sitting on the page in front of you. One of the most important things we can do is to give children books, let them get lost and when they close the cover and resurface, discuss what they have just read. How did the hero slay the dragon? What good and bad choices did he make to reach the end he reached? What actions or choices can we emulate in our lives?
This isn’t just a practice for children though. This is something we all must to do every time we read. You don’t have to write a book report or tear apart the story; just as you read beware of what you are reading. Beware of how their strife could mirror something in your life. What did they do? Can you do that? Can someone you know help you to do that? Before you stick the book back into the stacks take just a moment and consider what the hero or heroine or whatever character you like did and what choices they made and how they got to that end. Can you get to a similar end?
Stories tell us that we must have hope. (Snow White’s favorite word in my favorite show Once Upon a Time). The journey to killing a dragon or a demon or whatever it may be, can be a long one. Frodo and Sam had to go far and suffered much, before they got rid of the ring and were able to live their happy ending. Harry spent eleven years feeling worthless and unloved and another seven years constantly battling dark forces that were out to kill, maim and destroy him before he was able to live a happy ending. But as Chesterton stated, “… the idea that these limitless terror had a limit.” Right now we are standing under that dragon and he is roaring above us, breathing fire into our faces and choking us. We are wondering how we can ever even knick this dragon’s tough scales let alone defeat it. But if we hold onto hope and we learn from our favorites character’s choices and decisions we can fight this dragon and we will win one day.
I do not understand politics like a friend of mine. I will not be in the Senate or House of Representatives or White House writing laws and changing things on a political level like I know he will one day. I am not like my mother and aunts who are teachers and teach children everyday not only Math, English and Science but how to be good people and respect those around you. I am too much of an introvert with minor social anxiety to be leading marches and holding rallies. But we all have something we can do and I can write.
What I know how to do is put a pen to paper and open eyes, minds and hearts to the beauty that eclipses the terror anger and pain around us. So that is how I will fight this fight. I will respect those around me, trying to show kindness to all that I meet. And I will continue to write stories where characters are tried, tested and have to fight with all they have to win. I will continue to write so this generation and the next can always remember that no matter how big and angry the dragon may appear there is a weak spot and once we find it and open it up we can defeat this dragon and live better lives.