Many years ago, well before my Parkinson’s diagnosis, my mother gave me a small piece of wall art depicting a Greek fresco of Saint George slaying the dragon. She proclaimed it to portray “Saint Peter, slaying his next dragon.” She was referring to my next life adventure and asked that I place it near the bed where it might protect me while sleeping.
Neither my mother nor I have been particularly religious in the organizational sense, but I do believe that we have both attempted to be spiritual in character. It hung on the wall as a silent nighttime companion for decades.
Intuitively, I understood that this ostensibly religious icon was appropriate for my life, but I had not attempted to understand why this was so, at least not on a conscious level. Until recently.
The legend of Saint George, a Roman Christian who lived during the 3rd century AD, at its essence tells of the killing of a beast that was terrorizing a local populace. It inspired myriad pieces of artwork across the ages.
The image is powerful, vividly illustrating a horse rearing up as Saint George readies to deliver the death blow. Both man and horse stare wisely at the dragon as the spear threatens to be thrust home. It can be vaguely unsettling, but given time, the picture brings me to a place of peaceful contemplation.
I believe that the legend points to several life truisms, the most obvious being that we all have our demons to conquer on some level. To me, it also speaks to life’s intrinsic struggle, and to the lack of a happy, acceptable, or even understandable resolution (Saint George was subsequently tortured and martyred for his refusal to denounce Christianity, never mind the fate of the dragon).
Regardless of how things appear, we are all hero’s, flawed and beautiful in our own right, silently battling our shared dragons of uncertainty, pain, and lack of meaning, each on a personal journey of desolate exploration, leaving me to wonder whether the target of the spear is really the dragon, or far beyond.