Donna Kim-Brand

The Hairy Lessons of the Hare and Tortoise

It’s finally springtime! Along with flowers and romance, we hear a lot about rabbits, one type of which is the hare. Rabbits come out of winter hibernation and get active making baby bunnies, lots of them, which are often seen hopping around your tender garden shoots (for better or worse). We also relate rabbits to non-religious baskets filled with chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs.

My ever-sparking mind also takes me back to remembrance of Aesop’s fable of the Hare and the Tortoise, which is often cited to make a point about certain morals or preferential actions. The ‘hairy’ question is, whose morals and which actions? Based on what?

The storyline is that an egotistical Hare challenges a slow-moving Tortoise to a race. Leaving the tortoise lumbering along in the dust churned up in the wake of his speed, the hare decides to take a nap along the way, assured of his lead. Meanwhile, the ever-plodding tortoise passes the hare and arrives at the finish line first. The presumed moral is, ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Or, with a different slant, ‘make haste, make waste’, or ‘the race goes not to the swift’. Supposed lessons learned include overcoming an over-confident bully by humble and honorable behavior. Or, perhaps, that when natural talents are squandered by laziness or pride, you are worse off than one with less talent who perseveres and stays in the game.

Sounds like old fashioned wives tales or outdated news in this modern age which is governed by speed and flashiness. Those who brag and flaunt the most seem to get the media attention and the sales, regardless of natural talent. Or, we have proverbial cases of ‘taking 20 years to become an overnight success’. No one notices the hairy years of trial and error, experience of presumed failures, development of one’s craft and mastery of oneself which thus allowed emergence, fully formed, as a ‘new discovery’ one fine day.

And yet, a recent book by Guy Claxton, Hare Brain and Tortoise Mind, gives us neuroscience to back up some myths of thinking in our age of acceleration. On the surface, we demand hare-like quick, decisive action, considering it business-like and demonstrating leadership and certainty. And yet, we also live in times of paradox, contradiction and ambiguity, all elements that tease out our creativity by making connections at deeper levels, if we are paying attention. This often requires time, patience and incubation, with tortoise-like focus and plodding through the confusion and chaos, to gain the best outcomes.

The reality is, we need both approaches depending on what’s going on and what we are seeking to achieve. Sometimes being ‘speedy-gonzalez’ allows us to win by a hair and set new records of achievement. Other times it just makes us sloppy and superficial, lacking in true value and worthy contribution. Sometimes going slow allows us to savor the moment and pay attention to the nuances, or it can simply make us ‘miss the boat’; or just too late to play the game.

So what’s the lesson? The moral? Dare I say? Maybe it’s simply that we take the time to appreciate the moment, knowing that life is a marathon comprised of sprints at several points along the way. How we define the ‘hairiness’ or choose to act in any moment will determine whether we take the approach of the Hare or the Tortoise. So why not be ready for both? It sure makes for a more interesting and satisfying journey, both for us and our comrades along the way!

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