What Aesop was Really on about with the Rabbit and Tortoise Story

Beyond things that have been taught…

Ever since we were kids, ever since our parents were kids, the old tale of a race between the rabbit and the tortoise has been told and re-told several times over. And we have been told that slow and steady wins the race.

Slow and steady definitely wins the race, under the condition that the fast and zippy goes to sleep. I would like to think that Aesop could have forgotten to give us the complete deal, but Aesop being an ancient one and ancient ones being wise beyond their beards and all that, we would have to give Aesop the benefit of doubt.

On the other hand, we all know what happens to a story when it gets passed around. Yes, it gets diluted, broken apart, and corrupted en-route. This means, we have simply assumed that slow and steady is the way to go – we the students, never got the whole picture.

So, what is it that Aesop really wanted to tell us?

Competition should take place among equals

So, I can’t challenge Usain Bolt to race – can I? I am going to lose, and I know that. Then why on earth did the tortoise challenge a rabbit to a race?! The whole thing was skewed, right from the beginning, if the storyteller hadn’t introduced a twist into the tale.

In an ideal world, which is how it works these days, the rabbit would be in a competition with other rabbits, as would the tortoise, with its own mates. Usain Bolt gets to compete with other professional athletes, not some writer who is busy digging up stuff, she is not even getting paid to write.

Speed can slow us down in ways that we are not aware of

In a world that does not exist inside a tale where rabbits and tortoises take on each other, rabbits hop. They usually run when the have to run the hell away from their predators. It is when their primal instinct of fear takes over, causing the brain to focus only on releasing enough stress simulators that somehow will their legs to move at an amazing speed.

To the outside world, “speed” is a thrill. To us, “speed” is pure adrenaline pumping across the entire body, filling us with a strange sort of “high.” But to the brain, “speed” is stress. Irrespective of whether we are participating in a car race, or simply watching one, the brain goes into over-drive, working with stress, while relishing the “high” at the same time.

All of us do “speed” differently. But all of us do “speed.” And it is because our thoughts travel faster than the speed of light. So everyone’s brain is always rushing somewhere. It is when we are constantly working our thoughts that it begins to destroy us, albeit slowly, because we cannot afford to run our brain in a continuous state of stress.

Whether our thoughts mess-up our ego (as in case of dear rabbit here), our physical and mental well-being, or our intuitive, natural self; the addiction to “speed” can destroy us way before our time.

Mutual respect enables peace

What if the rabbit had just greeted the tortoise with a “Hello, good evening, friend, just passing by!” What if the rabbit had kept its ego to itself, instead of letting it loose? Or what if the tortoise had simply ignored the rabbit’s taunts? If any of these situations would have occurred, we would not have had a story.

But sometimes, many times, it is better to quite the monkey-mind. It is even better to understand that the other person, just like you and I, is a unique design of nature. This understanding enables a sense of respect for one another, automatically leading to the creation of peace.

As a story-teller, I love conflict situations, but only in my imaginary world made up of words. In the real world though, I would love to see peace spread her wings and drop fluffy friendship-bombs all over the globe.

So, yeah, egoistic rabbits and unrealistic tortoises exist within our mind-space, not outside it. Then why bring them up in the first place?!

Follow your chosen path, whatever your pace

Be it slow and steady or fast and zippy, we just keep moving. The presence of a hungry fox does not stop the rabbit from foraying out of its burrow. Neither does the tortoise continue to stay within the protective cover of its shell. Both animals keep on and up with their respective lives.

Keep moving, whatever maybe your pace – well, that is the simple lesson that Aesop wanted to tell the world.

During each scene of the tale of the rabbit and the tortoise, the story could have also been turned into some other story. Aesop chose this pathway – why he did it, only Aesop can say. Maybe, he had given in to his ego at some time, his unrealistic demands at another time, and he wanted to let us know. Maybe, he wanted to tell the rest of the world to keep moving, despite the lack of “speed” or irrespective of the “illogical” decisions and mistakes we make at times. Or maybe, he just wanted to tell a story, and make nothing out of it. And how does it all matter anyway, the ancient one is long-gone.

We though, are still taking the same lessons from this old story, making incomplete connections and, god forbid, passing them on. What if we choose to form our own learning instead?!

Here’s to unlearning our learning!

Join me as we dive into tales big and small, and undo them all!

Kanika Kumar

Dear You, I am a writer and I specialize in Dark Spaces. As a child I explored the unknown through my reading. Now, as an adult, I traverse the spheres of fiction and non-fiction through my understanding of this unknown space that exists both within and around us. Join me in my travels as we grow together through discovery, acceptance and progression.

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