A Slow Race

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So, I am willing to bet that everyone that has ever existed has heard of the tortoise and the hare story before. I know I have! I don’t remember where or when I heard it first, so it’s almost like I was born knowing it (I am aware that is not true). It is one of the most referenced stories of all time, and I bet you didn’t know that it was written by Aesop! Alright, maybe you did, but it’s still pretty cool. This story will live on forever like many other fables that appeared out of this time. If you happen to be a rare individual and have somehow lived your life in complete oblivion to this great tale, I shall recount it now to let you in on the context of this discussion.

Basically, there is a hare (like a rabbit in case you didn’t know) who is fast, skilled and, oh yeah, cocky! He is so high and mighty and full of himself that he brags that he is the fastest in the land. Where is this land you may ask? I don’t have that answer, but it’s one in which animals speak to each other and have races and such. In this same land there is a little tortoise (like a turtle, because “The Tortoise and the Hare” sounds more important than “The Turtle and the Rabbit”) who is sweet, wise, and humble. The story goes that the hare is talking himself up to some of the other talking creatures and saying that he is so great and so fast that he could run for miles and miles and not get tired. The tortoise is slightly annoyed at the excessive brattiness of the hare, and he challenges the hare to a race. Now at this point you’re probably thinking that this is an awful idea because tortoises are SO slow that he could never beat a hare in a race. Well, they set up a start line and select a finish line and get ready to go. When the race begins, the hare takes off and leaves the tortoise in the dust. The tortoise seems unfazed and continues to walk slowly and steadily along the path. The hare gets about halfway and looks behind him, but the tortoise is nowhere in sight. He decides to take advantage of his lead, and since he stayed up late the last night (probably playing video games, or maybe texting the cute bunny next door) and he decides to take a quick nap.This is unfortunate on his part because while the hare is catching some z’s, the tortoise is continuing on the path steadily, never stopping. When the hare wakes up (I guess he forgot to set his alarm), the tortoise has already crossed the finish line. So the moral of this popular story is ALWAYS set your alarm or you’ll oversleep. That was a joke. It’s actually that patience and perseverance always wins over cockiness and laziness.

There are so many variants of the story but hardly any deviate from the original meaning and moral of the story. Similar fables have emerged from Chinese and even Native American cultures! I find it so fascinating how stories can travel across continents, borders, cultural and social boundaries. This timeless tale really is inspiring, but more than anything it reminds me of my sister. When we were little she would always use the expression “slow and steady wins the race” as an excuse to walk at a snail’s pace wherever we went. On a family trip to the zoo, we only got through a quarter of the exhibits because she would stop to read every sign and walk slowly so as to observe every little detail! It was infuriating! I guess sometimes it does pay off because now she knows more random facts about wild animals than anyone I know. I’m quite sure that this was not the exact implication that Aesop or any of the other story-tellers were trying to emphasize but I guess it does prove that going slower can mean getting ahead!

 

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