“Unicorns were chosen to return to Arcadia when they had shown themselves to be especially brave and helpful…”
Mrs Fontana is a wise old lady and is speaking to Lauren, a 9-year-old girl who owns a dapple grey pony.
In a previous meeting Mrs Fontana told Lauren that her pony may transform into a unicorn if she spells magical words after sunset in front of her pony.
Lauren is a modern girl and sceptic about magics, initially reluctant to believe that unicorns exist.
And, honestly, who in our modern time could say that they have ever seen a unicorn? Or other fantastic creatures?
The eyes of imagination
Mrs Fontana however seems to be sure about it: unicorns exist if only we are able to create that special condition that opens the eyes of imagination and fantasy.
“My Secret Unicorn” is a fantasy series for children (age 6-10 circa), written by Linda Chapman in 2002-2007.
I did read this pleasant story to my latest children while they were that age and can say that it is a delightful story for adults too.
Lauren trusts Mrs Fontana as all children trust adults in the beginning. So, she will find out that her dapple grey pony, Twilight, can actually become a splendid snow-white unicorn when she calls the magic spell that Mrs Fontana taught her.
She can then immerse herself into that imaginative world where characters and events -like it happens in fairytales- are not tightened to the laws of physics.
It is a significant moment of the story, when Mrs Fontana reveals to Lauren that unicorns can return to Arcadia, only after they have shown themselves to be brave and helpful…
In a whisper she introduces Lauren to a deep existential question: what is life for?
Be brave and helpful
Mrs Fontana’s suggestion is an implicit message to the young listeners: ethical values are at the ground of our mission and the reason of our life in this world.
When the modest-looking pony has done enough good deeds, then it’s time to go back home.
Is this not a life condition that may extend to humans? Doesn’t our life become meaningful as far as we match our ethical values?
In the story, Lauren and Twilight carry out many helpful, brave actions that make them feel good and happy.
Lauren however begins to feel sad when she realises that every good deed may bring Twilight closer to her return to Arcadia!
One evening, after having done one more good action with Twilight, Lauren casually meets Mrs Fontana and looks sad. Mrs Fontana asks her why she is sad. Lauren replies:
“ I don’t know what to do. The more we help people, the sooner Twilight will have to go back to Arcadia. I want to do good but I don’t want her to leave.”
A deep secret of life
One more time Mrs Fontana guides Lauren to the understanding of a second deep secret of life.
“… the amount of good you do doesn’t affect when Twilight leaves” Mrs Fontana said in surprise. “[Twilight] will stay for as long as you need her’…”
“She will stay for as long as you need her”: its mission -its good and helpful deeds- is not the only parameter to evaluate her permanence in this world.
This is an extremely significant principle that may also relate to our human existence: one stays in life -or in a certain context of life- as long as someone else needs them.
In the serious, competitive world of adults we are used to hear: “Everyone is useful, no-one is necessary”.
This statement is surely valid for coaches of football clubs or for managers of highly ambitious, aggressive programmes and companies where the human element is not the focus, but the hyper-specialised skills.
It doesn’t however entail any seed that may inspire a positive development in social relations.
I need you
If a “community” is indeed rooted into ethos and ethical values, they will never proclaim: everyone is useful, no-one is necessary.
They will tell one other: “I need you!”
There is evidence of this secret of life in our present circumstances.
When one’s presence in a social or professional context doesn’t make sense to others, his mission can’t continue in that social or professional context. For that meaningless presence it makes sense -and becomes necessary- to move elsewhere.
The pandemic had initially opened some extremely interesting forms of solidarity. For example, retired doctors and nurses went back to work to help in those dramatic circumstances and some of them died from Covid. We all needed them and they stepped up!
Now, that first moment has gone, things start to run a bit more as usual and we don’t need each other in the same way.
The present challenge
A profound challenge at this stage of the pandemic is not only to tackle the impact of Covid-19 but how each community will find their way out.
It is understandable that businessmen try to take advantage of every circumstance as we carry all the misery of being human.
However, humans also carry the courage to help and accept that we need one another, so that nobody is excluded from any benefits that a “community” is able to achieve.
Well, may I encourage you to read “My Secret Unicorn”: it is a great imaginative sequel for children and a great refreshing source for adults!
Have a good read!
[PS: “My Secret Unicorn” is available on Amazon, Books4People, ebay and other retailers]