Marco Polo

During his travels in China, Marco Polo misidentified a rhinoceros as a Unicorn because of its horn. The rhinoceros was unknown in his world at the time, but the mythological creature he believed he had found was very familiar within his immediate context. It was easier for him to force what he saw to fit what he knew than it was for him to reconceptualize his objectives. Marco Polo wrote of his discovery…

“scarcely smaller than elephants. They have the hair of a buffalo and feet like an elephant’s. They have a single large black horn in the middle of the forehead… They have a head like a wild boars…They spend their time by preference wallowing in mud and slime. They are very ugly brutes to look at. They are not at all such as we describe them when we relate that they let themselves be captured by virgins, but clean contrary to our notions.”

We can not say Marco Polo lied about his Unicorn. But in order to tame the madness, which threatens to explode in the face of whoever looks at it, we must acknowledge his mistake. The Heart has its secrets – the sun, storms, volcanoes, and wounds, self-consciously idolatrous, coherent in its own contradictions, which for us express the force of a desire.

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