Monday, December 5, 2011

Sekko and the Dragon

A Japanese Folktale, retold by Patty Kyrlach

Once long ago, in the island country of Japan, there lived an artist named Sekko.

Sekko was famous for his paintings of dragons. He painted colorful dragons on plates and pottery, on fabric and tapestries, on canvases of all sizes, and even on the wall of the great hall of the emperor's palace.

Everyone oohed and ahhed when they saw the flashing eyes, the smoking nostrils, the curled claws, and the fearsome faces of Sekko's dragons. Sekko drew angry dragons, laughing dragons, dancing dragons, sorrowful dragons, and sleeping dragons. He even made a painting of the world's most famous artist reflected in the eye of a dragon.

Soon all the ladies at court were wearing dragon jewelry and braiding their hair with dragon claw combs. The men wore robes made from cloth that imitated dragon scales. Children built cages in hopes of finding a dragon egg and raising a dragon as a pet. But only the emperor was permitted to wear a  robe with a big dragon symbol -- hand painted, of course -- by Sekko.

It came as no surprise when Sekko was asked to lead the Dragon Symposium, an annual seminar dedicated to dragon studies -- their likes and dislikes, their lore and learning, their diet and mating rituals, and the fundamentals of dragon psychology. He drew diagrams of dragon anatomy. 

And he spoke at length on everyone's favorite subject, the fabled treasures of dragons. He painted maps that promised to lead sincere seekers to riches-beyond-reckoning. (No one seemed to notice that the only one getting rich was Sekko.)

Sekko's painting and treasure map business was thriving, until one day, when the earth shook.

In the artist's studio, pots and plates and paintings and tapestries went flying as the floor rocked like a ship in a storm. A burst of flame erupted just before the walls cracked and the roof came caving in. The artist barely escaped with his life.

Was it an earthquake, wondered Sekko? A volcano? The end of the world? 

Lying in a heap by the road, he looked up just in time to see a dragon -- a humongous, rainbow-colored, fire-breathing dragon -- sailing into the clouds.

Everyone came running to find Sekko. "Help us!" they cried. "What do we do now? You know everything about dragons. How can we save our village?"

But Sekko hung his head in shame.

"I don't know," he said. "I've never seen a real dragon before."

- - - - -

Many people are just like Sekko. They think they've got God all figured out. They know his likes and dislikes. They know the kind of people he associates with -- which, what a coincidence! -- is people just like them. They figure that God's political philosophy or theological views must surely match up with their own. Many Americans think that God is a Republican or a Democrat or a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian.

But they've never met God.  Not the humongous, rainbow-colored, fire-breathing God of the Bible.  After Job had an encounter with God, he said, "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you."  (Job 42:5)  Before he met God, Job had a lot of good suggestions about how God could run the universe; but after his encounter, he could only say, "I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:6)

The world doesn't need any more experts on God. What the world needs desperately are people who know God personally, people who can show God's love and kindness to everyone.

Stark Raving Mythopath thanks Inez Schneider, who first introduced her to this Japanese story.

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