The fledgling has this wonderful book about dragons. In it you can find anything you’d ever want to know about many dragon species, both foreign and domestic. It’s filled with arcane writings and illustrated with both exquisite line drawings and beautiful full color plates. How do dragons breathe fire? It’s there. How can they fly? That’s there too. Even the rituals of dragon reproduction are explored.
Likewise, I have a well-thumbed book called “Irish Wonders,” which tells me, in the dialect of 1810 Ireland (great fun to read aloud!), many charming and eye-popping folk-tales about pookas, demons, faeries, ghosts, banshees, giants, leprechauns, witches and the like from the Emerald Isle. I love reading it and never walk away having NOT learned something about myself, the world, and of course, the Ireland of those times.
What do these two books have in common with the Bible?
And that’s where the comparison ends. Because the book about dragons and the book of Irish folk-tales have never inspired killing hatred between people, although they may refer to such hatred, usually hand-in-hand with religion – and you know which one we’re talking about here. It’s not Osama’s religion, though his is right up there, comparable in bloody-mindedness. These books don’t inspire acts of deranged evil or madness, nor do they expect you to believe with your whole heart in their truth. They don’t claim to be written by men whose pens were guided by some Other-being, and they surely don’t advocate punishment and pestilence for those of who choose to read them as entertainment and whimsy – or even as life-lessons — rather than truth.
And yet not one of these books has a cold, hard fact between its covers, unless you count the environments and times in which they’re set. Yes, I can believe in the mountains of China, where there be dragons. And I can believe that the writer of “Irish Wonders” was a truly bigoted man who found the Irish people who told him their stories little more than barely intelligent animals. The Bible is filled with places that exist and did once exist – Mt. Sinai, Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee.
All of these books are filled with stories inspired by superstition, fascination with — and fear of — the unknown. It’s just the way humans are. When we can’t explain something, we make up an explanation. Simple.
As I write this, in the late afternoon of June 6, 2006 – 06/06/06, an auspicious date, I’m told – not one of those stories has ever come true. No dragons have stopped by to visit or to burn my house down. I haven’t encountered a single pooka or leprechaun, though I wouldn’t mind sitting down for a conversation with either of those charming rogues. Nor has The Rapture occurred, even if there are hoards of believers in the Bible as The Word of God who also believe that today just might be the day they all get to Ascend Into Heaven and watch as Jesus returns to rid the world of the rest of us evil sinners in truly disgusting, gory and awful ways.
Sure, there are still a handful of hours left to 6/7/6. I’m not holding my breath. But if you happen to see a faerie as you wander your garden or take a walk this evening, send her my way, will you? I have a lovely little saucer of milk out for her on the back stoop.