Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Here Be Dragons

Did those ancient maps really exist?  Or were they a myth, along with the dragons themselves?

True or mythical, we all treasure their memory.
Jerusalem was usually depicted at the centre of the known world.
At the fringe of the parchment, where land gave way to uncharted, un-named oceans, there you'd discover the carefully-etched words, 'Here Be Dragons' . . . an inscription which must have effectively discouraged any ships from further exploration.

Along with the unicorn, centaur and phoenix, the dragon has long been banished from our science-based world.  They've all taken refuge in the world of myth and imagination.

Nowadays, in the real world, we're uncertain whether we're even entitled to write, 'Here Be Fish' on the maps of our depleted oceans.  On account of man's over-fishing, many species are in danger of disappearing altogether.

As for the birds . . . tell me, did you hear a cuckoo last spring?
Where are the London sparrows?
And, if we're thinking of amphibians and mammals, when did a once-familiar frog or hedgehog last cross your path?

May I share a statistic that was told to me the other day?

Apparently, if all the insect life on our planet were to disappear overnight, all the remaining life-forms would survive for no more than five years.  Insects, it seems, are vital to the existence of everything else.

If, on the other hand, human beings were to disappear overnight . . . well, you can guess what I'm going to say.
On the physical level, mankind is wholly predatory.  Every plant and animal species (with the notable exception of our forgiving animal companions) would, I strongly suspect, heave a collective sigh of relief!

Before it's too late, let's remember that we're not omnipotent.  We're an integral part of the whole, our existence being totally dependent on the welfare of that whole.
If we trample our Earth, pollute its water, exhaust its capacity for renewal, we are destroying ourselves . . .. there isn't a spare planet to switch to.

I wonder, may I offer a suggestion?
It came to me after hearing Benedict Allen make an appeal on Radio 4 on behalf of the Environmental Justice Foundation.
May I suggest that we invite those dragons back?  No, not as symbols of intimidation, but as mythical creatures of protection.

We need protective dragons to sit atop the highest mountains and encourage us to gaze upwards in awe and admiration, not climb heedlessly to the summit to plant flags and leave litter.

We need protective dragons to stand guard over the rain forests, and stop us destroying the all-important vegetation.

We need dragons to reside in the depths of  the oceans, and ensure the welfare and continuation of all marine life.

We need dragons to protect those all-important insects . . . insects that we, in our foolishness, classify as pests.

We also need those dragons to point out that the 'quiet and unspoiled' corners of our planet must be treasured, and preferably remain unvisited.
If we persist in our current belief that we should travel everywhere and see everything, those quiet and unspoiled corners could easily disappear in our lifetime.

Finally, we need the dragons to remind us of the honour we should pay to every aspect of our incredible world.

And, if the dragons fail . . . what if we continue on our unthinking pillage?

Might it be that, some day in the future, when an alien being on a distant planet decides to chart a map of the universe, his depiction of planet Earth will be of a barren land . . . a land bearing the telling inscription, 'Here Were Humans'.

There's still time, but the dragons may well need the co-operation of the phoenix if we're to rise from our self-created ashes.

And if we do . . . if we come together, acknowledge the wisdom of St. Francis and recognise our unity?
Let's hope that that alien cartographer will smile through space and bestow on Earth the welcome caption, 'Here Be Harmony'.