My favorite storyteller from history is Aesop. My favorite Aesop Fable is that of the Tortoise and the Hare. We all know the story but few know the lesson contained within:
THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE BY AESOP AS INTERPRETED BY LEE BROOM
It is a beautiful spring day,The Hare challenges a gathering of animals to produce a worthy opponent for a race from hither to yon.
No one accepts. Several minutes later as the hare settles down and slumps against a tree, the tortoise finally makes his way across the clearing that separates the two.
The hare’s head bobs up. “Who said that?”
“Accept what?” asks the hare, his long, jack-rabbity ears at full attention; “accept what”.
“I have decided to accept your challenge” replied the tortoise. “I will join you in this thing you call a race. Where do you suggest we start and what is our destination?”
Stunned by the audacity of this lowly creature the hare agrees. The two of them approach the starting line as the other animals draw near. The Wapiti with his head held high bellows loudly, “Go, fellow competitors, go.”
And they do.
The hare disappears as though he had never been and the tortoise plods forward.
The hare decides after disappearing from view, to find another tree against which, to lean and prepares his expectation of enjoying the previously interrupted nap before finishing the race; the tortoise plods forward.
As the hare nods off to dreamland; the tortoise maintains his movement toward their shared goal.
An hour later, the hare awakens; with a stunned expression on his whiskered face the hare looks up and around and there in the distance he notices the tortoise approaching the finish line.
“Dang “, he swears to himself ” dang, dang, dang and off he scampers to win the race.
As the hare arrives at the finish line the crowd begins to cheer and feeling very proud of his fine self he prepares for a round or two of adulation, until…
There in front of him, barely visible as a result of a pressing crowd of admirers, is the tortoise. The hare has lost to a lowly reptile in a camper shell. “Dang”, he swears to himself. “Dang, dang, dang.”
And if we are to believe the moral that usually follows this philosophical charmer, “Slow and easy wins the race”, then we must decide how this message can be helpful in modern culture where nary a citizen has enough time to fulfill dreams and obligation. But is this indeed, the real message?
With but a moment or two of logical thinking I believe this story is about the response of a non conformist (the tortoise) to the taunts of an anti-conformist, (the hare), a challenge from one whose life has been filled with the conditional praises of others and which is affirmed on this lovely spring day, by the acceptance of one for whom praise was unnecessary.
The hare is a competitor of the first order, a rebellious critter interested only in the applause and congratulations for being noticeably and defiantly special and somehow, always a winner.
The tortoise’s lack of competitive spirit leaves no void within his persona for his spirit seems awash with the cleansing effects of acceptance, peace and the forgiving love which comes from a life that is free of expectation or of a need for approval or words of gratitude.
The reptile in the camper shell is at home with himself.