Mariah Proctor is a senior at BYU.
“Once upon a time there was a hare who, boasting how he could run faster than anyone else, was forever teasing tortoise for its slowness.” We know where the story goes from there. The hare challenges the tortoise to a race that he’s laughably sure he will win, but because of his arrogance and his self-assurance, his progress is inconsistent and his leaps and bounds are interrupted by napping and cabbage eating and Mr. Slow-and-Steady wins the race.
This fable is always brought in to illustrate the power in being consistent and moving forward continually no matter how insignificant your progress may feel, and I don’t disagree with that lesson, but I would like to defend the hare.
Please understand first that it is not a predilection for rabbits over turtles that leads me to address this issue. The most exciting Christmas morning of my whole life was one in which I came down and Santa had brought me the black and white long-eared puffball I had been eyeing at the pet store.
What followed cannot take away from the excitement of that moment or the thoughtfulness of Santa in bringing me that moment, but Floppy’ and his downy companion Thumper’ that arrived a little later turned out to be the worst pets a girl could ask for. It took so much work to keep their cages clean and in return all we got were shifty eyes, constant rabbit-shivering and an [affectionate?] bite now and then.
On the other hand, I had a substitute teacher in high school that looked like a turtle and he was one of my favorite teachers I ever had. So, it’s established, I’m not defending the hare purely because of a species preference.
I spent this morning working inventory for the city of Orem counting traffic cones and police radios and tiny light bulbs and pruning saws. It was sort of a unique and interesting experience at the beginning of the workday. I was learning a little about a lot and making polite and occasionally witty banter with my counting partner and getting teased about worker’s comp by the foreman because I was bleeding from a pencil injury before we even started the inventory process.
But the day went on, and the more numbers I recorded, and the more circuit breakers I piled in my arms to count, and the more minutes I lost, the more my brain began to turn to mush. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a connoisseur of odd jobs and that much of my travel has been paid for by rating frozen yogurt joints and psychology testing and temporary construction work.
I like the stimulation of trying new things and being put in the path of people I would never have been associated with otherwise, but each task that I’m set to, brings to light the contrast between the satisfaction and personal development I feel in working on the things that I’m passionate about and talented at and progressing in and the dull ache that grows in my belly and brain when I’m simply chugging away.
I’m not knocking consistency. I wish I were more disciplined and consistent in my daily endeavors. If I were, it would save me a lot of routine heartache—-both heartache about my routine and pains that come on a regular basis. At the same time though, I would never want to find my perfect daily routine and then conclude from it that I was living up to the potential that I have brewing and bubbling up inside me.
Good on the tortoise for finding a way to be triumphant, but he should’ve been finding his own strengths to develop and his own passions to pursue, rather than allowing himself to be so provoked by the hare. I respect the hare’s ability to recognize that speed was such a strength and I like that he was so eager to put that strength to the test.
I see my strengths and run from them, I never allow myself to be impatient for display.
The hare shouldn’t have been so arrogant and cheeky, but the tortoise should’ve picked a better event to compete with the hare in—like longevity or neck-length. Sometimes this fable is brought up to illustrate a point about constancy, and inevitably in the discussion that follows, momentum and strength become vilified traits.
Just because the hare didn’t have the humility to recognize that his God-given talent alone wouldn’t be enough to get him to the finish line first if he didn’t also involve real work and vigilance, doesn’t mean that we, Aesop’s readers, should develop a robust disdain for swiftness. I want to find and embrace my own swiftness. I don’t ever want to just putter along through life, no matter how reliably I’m puttering.
The gift of eternal perspective is an incredible one. Thanks to our Gospel knowledge, we know that this life is only a part of the existence of our spirits. Knowing that there is a bigger picture makes it easier not to sweat the small stuff, but it shouldn’t give us license to allow ourselves to be less than ourselves. Taking little steps, living little lives, “walking heel to toe to heel to toe toward the ever after in straight and measured lines” is not the only purpose of existence. We are developing our souls during this sojourn on the earth and that means deep self-exploration and the refusal to be disgusted or intimidated by the potential for swiftness that we find there.
If it turns out your life could be a sprint, don’t pretend to be a tortoise if you know you’re a hare.