Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Waking the Peace Dragon

A survivor of a terrorist attack turns her thoughts—and actions—to peace

A Shaman gathered his tribesman and told them of a great battle of wolves being waged inside each one of them. This ferocious battle, he said, was being fought between an angry wolf and a loving wolf. He ended this thought with a nod. The tribe members waited, but he did not continue.

Finally someone broke the silence, “Tell us, please, which wolf wins?”

The Shaman looked at each of them and spoke softly: “The one you feed.”

*****

On November 26, 2008, I was dining with friends in Mumbai, when terrorists stormed the restaurant of our hotel. Two of my dinner companions, Alan Scherr and his daughter Naomi, lost their lives that night. Naomi was only thirteen years old. A machine gun bullet patterned a three-foot path across my back. My eyes were barely open before reporters pounded at my door for a response to the events. What wolf would I feed?

Certainly I had a good reason to carry the flames of hatred: the media gleefully shoveled live-feed horror to audiences around the world. But I knew my loving wolf needed to become stronger and louder, denying fodder for the angry media beast. I decided, then and there, that if others were meant to see what I saw, they would have been there, too. I would never tell what I saw in Mumbai. Ever. I chose instead to speak of love and miracles, of forgiveness and light.

The vehicle for my message came as a gift from my young dinner companion, Naomi: the simple request to teach her how to draw a dragon. I never got to fulfill that request. It became my mission to teach every child how to draw a dragon, and through a website—thepeacedragon.com—children would come and watch movies and learn how to draw dragons and post them in this virtual lair. The world would see all these spectacular dragons, all distinctly different, all divinely drawn, living together. Perhaps people could learn from them?

The dragons had more to reveal. The words peace and dragon conjure up opposing images. How does a creature with sharp, pointed scales convince you she’s kind? By making you look beyond the surface, by revealing the truth that the sharp point is the bottom of each heart-shaped scale. Omani the Peace Dragon delivered this message to me through the story of her search for a home where the heart is the guiding compass of its townspeople. “Every heart has a point, every point a direction. Which way shall you go?” she asks of us. As in the shaman’s story, Omani’s tale reveals both the peaceful and the fiery dragon we carry inside. Only we decide which one we put in control, which one we feed.

Many writers have observed that their characters often seem to divulge their own actions or motives. With this story, though, the characters started singing. In light of my recent trauma, I was shaken up a bit, and I’m not legally allowed to sing in any public forum, so I kept trying to quiet my characters down. But once I conferred with a professional, my friend Kirsti Manna—singer singer, lyricist, musician—I realized that these dragons were going to sing, and in a musical. The first song is done, fully recorded, and we are in the stages of finalizing the musical presentation.

While speaking at different venues throughout the year, I have been graced by meeting many people with a mutual desire to promote the peace dragon. Emily Masters and Gabrielle Saliba, owners of Studio 1406, heard the song and created a Peace Dragon dance. The young dancers performed at the Southern Festival of books in October. A monk created a Peace Dragon Qi gong routine, designed to activate the heart and energy in a centered form. Sabeena, an AttarWalla from India, captured peace in a scent she calls Shanti, the Sanskrit word for peace. The performances will be making their video debuts on the website, which has extended beyond its original literary and visual focus; now thepeacedragon.com contains all the arts. How silly of me to have put up boundaries! Art with a heart for peace has no boundaries.

Kia Scherr, who lost both her husband and daughter that night, started a foundation for beginning a conversation about peace. The Peace Dragon catalogues just what possibilities can be born from such discussions. Our personal conversations have led to creating a Peace Dragon ArtQuest, where a dragon-art exchange between children of different countries will help foster an understanding of their roots as one race—the human race. By petitioning the help of celebrities to decorate dragons, we are hoping to raise funds for these ArtQuests by auctioning off their artwork.

The Peace Dragon is growing on a steady menu of loving attention. After I spoke to culinary artists at the Art Institute of Tennessee/Nashville, it took only hours for them to commit their students and start a social club, devoting their art facilities to helping mentor the dragon, and vice versa. We are planning “Peace Meal” concepts and “Parties with a Purpose” for people to celebrate with a more open heart. “A Taste of Peace: Comfort Foods from Around the World” is an entire web section inspired by a young chef, and calls to the international community are already going out. Our first extravaganza will be a Valentine “Every Heart” party, a loving expression of art in all its forms.

I chose to feed the loving beast, and it materialized as a peace dragon. This dragon is soaring through the artistic interpretations, imagination, and actions of all who meet her. So the question bears asking: which wolf—or dragon—are you feeding?

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