The Way of the Dragon

A lizard suns itself on a rock

Reminders if the Dragon are all around us.

The year is 4697, or possibly 4698, the Year of the Dragon. On February 5 the dragon, oblivious to Y2K, issued in a new lunar year with fifteen days of celebration and revelry heralding yet another spring.

And spring it is once again. Buds are swelling, frogs are croaking, the hills are turning green as life on Earth responds to the renewal spring represents. The constellations are moving in the heavens. It is time to do spring cleaning, time to refresh both body and soul, time to take stock.

For much of history we humans have looked with wonder at the life forms around us taking note of both similarities and differences. We have learned from and learned to live amidst a dazzling array of other creatures. It is not surprising that we have “adopted” some special animals to guide us.

The dragon–and we still do have dragons–symbolizes power, tension, endurance, and auspicious beginnings. It rights wrongs, champions justice; it commands vigilance, but not terror.

A fascination with dragons has inspired art, literature, and philosophy. Yet the real message of the dragon lies not in the reality or mythology of its existence, but in what it tells us about the human mind. Now, no less than in the past, there is a need to interpret the world around us, a world that that both anchors us on the earth and transports us beyond it.

We need only look around to see the representatives of the dragon living in our midst. The fence lizards, the blue-tailed skink, the gecko, the Komodo dragon are modern day versions of the dragons of old. The forked tongue, sampling its surroundings like a flame exploring a forest, the scales glistening like sequins on a brocaded frock, have been transformed by the facile mind of man to a larger-than-life legend in the dragon.

A lizard slowly stalks a cricket or grasshopper, the tension mounts. The wary insect jumps, taking it out of range just before the lizard makes its move; the complacent insect waits too long. The lesson is clear.

Nor has the endurance of the reptile in harsh surroundings escaped our notice. In the dragon it has come to signify hope and strength. This stamina beckons to us from a realm beyond our understanding, a realm of raw realty, of courage, a realm many of us have not traveled.

Lizards, salamanders, serpents share with man a complexity of form–a backbone, ribs, organs–that mark them as kin. Yet such a distant relative are they that a chasm exists between their lives and ours, one that leads to speculation and discovery, both scientific and personal.

In this Year of the Dragon you may wish to “adopt” your own animal. Let it take you on a journey of discovery of your inner world or lead you to the outer world around you. It is the spirit of the dragon you seek, not its conquest.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

If you missed San Jose’s Vietnamese Spring Festival and Parade February 6th, you can still see San Francisco’s dragon in the Chinatown Parade February 19.