Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Fable about Persistence

This week a box turtle
with a tough shell printed in gold and umber
made its way through the grass outside our door.

The next day, he--or perhaps his brother--was back again,
nestled in the lavender:

The evening after,
I saw a rabbit munching grass in a neighbor's yard.

I knew he could run away quickly, but he didn't.
He didn't seem disturbed by my watching him.

So, sighting a turtle and a rabbit within a block of one another
made me think of Aesop's Fable
about the Tortoise and the Hare,
officially, the Hare and the Tortoise.
Some interpreters say the story is about the hare's hubris,
for he brags about his physical prowess
and ridicules the tortoise's torpid movements.
Others say the story is more
about the tortoise's superior character and quiet confidence
in the face of insult.
Some versions end the fable this way:
"Slow but steady wins the race."
Other versions end it this way: "Plodding wins the race."
Either way, it's about persistence in the face of challenge, I'd say.
There are many admonitions about persistence in the world's literature.
A Japanese proverb encourages us to "Fall down 7 times, get up 8."
And there is also a story I read once in a book by an Indian guru.
It was about two frogs that fell into a pail of cream.
They swam, trying to find a way out, but it was hopeless.
They were stuck in the pail with no way out. 
Soon one of the frogs became discouraged at their plight,
 gave up and died. The other frog swam and swam,
refusing to give up, sure he would find a way out.
He swam and swam and swam so much
that he churned the cream into butter and climbed out of the pail.
I think my favorite is the Chinese adage
 bo bie quian li, meaning "a lame turtle goes a thousand miles."
 I read it in a book by Karin Evans
called The Lost Daughters of China. Here it is:

"Traveling at such a slow pace,
Do you think you can ever get there?"
a fast steed asked a lame turtle.
"Yes, as long as I keep going," said the turtle.

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