I am a Monolithic Dragon
“This is how I wanna feel
And the sound fills my soul.” — Troy Baker
I have this pendant that’s the Chinese character for Dragon, which my Chinese friend informs me is “Such a white person thing to wear.” She says so without any due respect at all, which is fair. I like to wear it, though, because my mother gave it to me at a time of her life when she was doing a lot of reading into as wide a range of spiritual schools as she could.
That secretly describes her whole life, so yeah…welcome to my childhood.
Mom gave me a pendant that said dragon because I was born in the year of the dragon, according to the Chinese zodiac. Ever since I’ve learned that I’ve thought it was pretty cool, and I like that my mom decided to give me a pendant to remind me.
I had a kind of squashed childhood. This isn’t a complaint. Only an observation. Anyone who’s been in a big family will understand the feeling of feeling like your emotional real estate is limited. My siblings ran the width of emotional expression to fill out their particular slot in the available space of my mother’s attention. All stripes, from your typical acting out typifier to my kid brother who went the angle of expressive silence that nobody could mistake for complacency.
I had a kind of interesting position in the family. Second child and first son of young parents, me, and mum and dad had me and my two sisters inside of a four year period. It so happens that my sisters decided that the way they would use their emotional real estate was noisily. They liked to assert themselves, and they might not have noticed it but they also had a gift for juxtaposition. What one of them did, the other eschewed in favor of all that thing wasn’t.
I figured out the gaps between their two little emotional realms early in life. And if I had been a more assertive personality somebody might have noticed. Not me, though. Creature of the night, me. Quiet and shadows my tools. Shadows and patience and letting be what will. That’s my aim, anyway.
I don’t see it as a worry. I had to grow up, and I had to figure how to grow up with strong women who demanded a lot of time and air, and I figured on a quiet approach.
I rarely fought for my mother’s attention. That’s what I’m trying to say. I rarely did, because it felt like everyone else felt more urgency. So I waited, and I wrote, and I waited.
I never felt neglected by my mom. I do think I got a little less of her time than some of my siblings, but I never felt neglected. I just didn’t demand as much.
Well, one day my mom acknowledged that she had been thinking about me by giving me a pendant of the Chinese character for Dragon, because she’d been reading and thinking and she discovered I was born in the Year of the Dragon. She didn’t explain that. It’s just what I came to understand as I wore it.
Secretly, this story is about cultural appropriation and how I wasn’t doing that. Because I never thought to myself about my Dragon pendant that I understood its significance in the Chinese sense. I had a vague notion, but I understood that I hadn’t grown up in the mythology and I would never really feel the significance of it. Or, at least, it would be hard to feel.
Having a pendant that had the Chinese character for Dragon means a lot to me on a personal level. Partly because of my mother, and partly because of the significance I imbued it with for myself. Every time I put the thing on, I would think the same phrase to myself. I would think, “To the cult of the self,” which sounded self-absorbed in my head, except that what I meant by it was this whole process of self-creation that life is.
We are all on a journey to make ourselves. Some schools of thought preach that’s the main point of life. Which, like, works for me sometimes.
In the end, see, all culture is cultural appropriation to a point. There is bad cultural appropriation, and I think that if we’re honest and true most of us can see the bad sort when we see it.
In the end, though, we appropriate any culture that we need in order to build ourselves. We occlude experiences into our greater self-image and become a larger whole by absorbing gobbets of experience and adding their meaning to the person we make ourselves into. If we do it thoughtfully and with self-awareness and respect for ourselves and for what’s outside of us we’re probably giving ourselves a good start on doing something at least a quarter decent. I always remind myself of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, which is just a good piece of advice in general. It says that everything is capable of suffering. We don’t always know what we might hurt, but if we bear in mind that everything — everyone — can get hurt and we can at least think about trying not to add to that too much then we’re at least starting with okay intentions.
That’s what I do, anyway.
I wear a lot of shine. I wear a lot of rings and a lot of ornaments, and I wear a lot of shine. I think of my shine as a little bit like a museum. Every bit’s got a story about it, if you ask, and every story’s a part of the mythology that I’ve lived that goes into this Cult of the Self. I spend my life making myself. We all do. One way that I choose to express this religion of self-making to the world is through my bits of pretty.
And I am a monolithic dragon. My mom said so.
p.s. I started this about a thousand years ago at the behest of Justin Cox 🍩, I think, who suggested writing a “Allow me to introduce myself…” thingy.