By Debbie Olujobi
The hare is a mammal, it is bigger than the rabbit and not known for its depth or intelligence.The past two weeks were all about the race ran between the hare and tortoise. The fable itself is African in origin but it has spread around the world and I doubt there are still people in the world not familiar with it. So for a quick recap; here goes.
The hare and the tortoise had a race, along the line the hare decided to take a nap as the tortoise was far behind, he woke up just in time to see the tortoise win the race.The hare is physically built for speed and the moral of the story about the race ran between the hare and tortoise is lost on most of us.
As a child I thought the hare lost the race because he was over confident and was a lesson in the price of arrogance and the error of under estimating others. Its very funny how we acquire a deeper insight to things we never really thought much of as we mature. The story is a metaphoric masterpiece, a study on life as lived through all it’s phases and experiences. Now I should clarify that my understanding and opinion are all mine but over the next few weeks I intend to propound sound logic to back my position.
A baby is one of the most beautiful things about humanity, they smell nice, are cute, innocent, have the most gorgeous laugh and in my opinion also most vulnerable because they lack the skills and wisdom to navigate and survive the reality of the world they have been born into. A baby is born very trusting and the experience of the world and its inhabitants will eventually teach him or her to distrust, to fear and to survive.
When I was exploring the options of birth plans for my children I considered the option of a water birth as some mothers said it helped with pain management. I sat through a few videos and it was gory at best; the pain didn’t look managed and by God, it was messy. I didn’t choose that option but those videos proved a theory I had heard many times over; babies float!
The babies immediately after birth floated face up and only started crying when they were scooped out of the water. Nothing special if you consider that babies live in the amniotic sac full of water (of sorts) but a lack of fear is the major thing here. I learnt how to swim as an adult and I used to sink like a stone till I learnt to conquer my fear of the water. I found I could just float if the fear didn’t start the panic.
In my view the story of the race is not about two creatures but one. The hare in my view is the age of innocence, exuberance, adrenalin bursting eagerness and a little ignorance. The hare in reality is a metaphoric representation of youth, in all its innocence and naïveté. When I was younger I thought I was invincible, I took crazy risks and it never occurred to me to even consider there could be lasting consequences for some of my harebrained ideas. Just like the baby who automatically floats after being born in water, I just assumed that all is as it seems; the familiar is safe.
One of the most stupid things I did was to seat on the boot of a convertible while it sped crazily down a highway. I was holding on to nothing and I remember my eyelashes being forced into my eyes by the crazy wind. It seemed fun to dance and play the fool and I may well have done it again if a friend of mine had not been decapitated by standing up and dancing through a sunroof just a week later!
That tragedy shook me to my core and till date I give thanks to God for extending mercy to me as my actions were not only stupid but bordered on crazy. The hare is a swift creature but its an almost defenceless one as it can be caught and eaten by both man and animal. Any member of the cat family in the jungle could have joined in that race and made Mr hare lunch as easily as I could have fallen off and been killed by impact or even coming traffic. The hare’s challenge to the tortoise exposed it to unnecessary danger and he could have lost a lot more than the race.
The age of innocence is the hare stage in all our lives. It happens when we are young and fearless and it is short lived. I had a mini debate with some young people and they as expected prided themselves on being the hares. God forbid they are seen as the unattractive or timid and sluggish tortoise.
I asked them how long the hare lived and they assumed that it was forever; they just didn’t see that there were other considerations apart from beauty and the glamour of the fast life. It was this mindset that informed all their life changing decisions, no in depth considerations of possible consequences of actions and life changing events, impulse marriages and divorces, fathering children without care, living on borrowed funds to look good and so many other foibles of the young.
We began to share life experiences and they were stunned that I had once been in their shoes, felt what they feel and learnt that life always hides a lesson in every escapade or adventure. The difference between us was simple, my actions were now consequence based, theirs was gratification based, no matter how fleeting!
The hare lives for less than a decade, at best 6 or 7years, so if longevity was a consideration no one should want to live its life, its a delicate animal, not sturdy, given to sickness and premature death. Life cant be sustained in the fast lane; speed will eventually kill, either through a crash or just wear out. Every single one of us is born a hare, adventurous, flighty, attractive and youthful but life happens to us all and we end up tortoises.
We acquire a hard shell that protects us against danger and deceit. Age forces us to slow down and we realise the race is not to the swift but to God alone who shows mercy. It’s ironic that the hare never listens to the tortoise and starts a competition that is unnecessary and fraught with danger. Matured adults would be economical with the truth if they denied hare tendencies when they were younger; we’ve all been there. becoming Tortoises in later life is a product of grace. Over time we age, we develop a layer of wisdom and realise that while the hare can be fast, it cant out run time.