The Art of Staying Here and Now: New Lessons from an Old Fable

It is 2021, and one thing everyone told us to do with 2020 was to learn some crucial life lessons.

It is like a recorded message at this point- gratitude, being present in the moment, making use of the resources we have are some ‘lessons’ we were told to learn. Lessons to be learnt are never ending, even when the year ends. So, for a little novelty here, and not to repeat the recording, we shall add a twist.

We shall talk about a crucial lesson to be learnt, but we shall talk about a story, a fable, which would be familiar to most of us but we may or may not have delved beyond what we were told the moral of the story was.

Remember that hare and the tortoise story?

There was a challenge between the two- the hare wanted to prove he was the fastest in the jungle, and the tortoise wanted to prove how the slow and the steady win the race. The hare was far ahead in the race; the tortoise was nowhere to be seen. The hare decided to rest, and since he was already in the lush meadows, it was not at all difficult for him to fall asleep under a giant shady tree. And thus, the tortoise quietly and steadily treaded along, and won the race.

They say the hare fell prey to his overconfidence and laziness.

Well, that’s one way to look at it.

Let us take on the character of the hare. Let us pretend he gave an interview later. (After 2020, nothing is crazy anymore.)

So, we ask the hare if he is the one who lost the race- indeed he was!

We ask- do you admit to your laziness and complacence? And that the tortoise had more persistence and dedication?

Yes, the tortoise was more persistent and dedicated but I was not lazy and complacent; no, let me explain, says the hare. And the explanation goes this way.

The hare was assured of his lead, but he also found himself admiring the beauty of the meadows, the gentleness of the breeze, the musical sound of the water gushing in a pond nearby with ducks cackling, and the shade of the tree. He wanted to drift off on a log of wood. Who wouldn’t, when the nature around was so abundant and so pleasant?

An old meditative looking man, in his flowing beard saw the hare and asked him what he was up to and why he was running a race.

We know the hare’s answer- To show all the creatures in the jungle that he was the fastest; to win that coveted medal; to be remembered and respected as the fastest of all.

The old man asked if he knew who the last fastest creature was. The hare didn’t know.

The old man asked what he would do when someone else challenged him tomorrow- today a tortoise challenged, tomorrow a snake shall do it, and the day after, a zebra- the challenges will never stop. Would he continue to race all his life? Did he want that?

And suddenly, the hare knew what he wanted. He wanted to jump into the pond, and after a good swim doze off under the tree. He did exactly that. The ducks in the pond looked at him quizzically, asking him about the race. No, said the hare, I am here and now, and that is all that matters. I want to live. I don’t want to become a part of this endless race.

That day, the hare realised the value of living in the present- just the anticipation of competition was enough to drive him to get into unhealthy competition.

That day, the hare realised the gift of resources it had, and the power of gratitude- he realised he did not need any race to prove how gifted he was

That day, the hare realised the power of staying in the now and the present- he assessed his needs based on where he was at present, and made a decision about what he wanted to do based on his real, current scenario, and not rushing on to a decision which was wrought in unnecessary anticipation and unhealthy competition.

That day, the hare lost the race but got his life back.

They tell life is a marathon, and not a sprint. But whoever said life was a race in the first place?

In a bid to prove ourselves to critics who might not even matter, in a bid to make a statement, in a bid to prove a point, we often forget to live in the present. We forget to see that we are doing just fine, and there is no need to join a race we don’t even need to be a part of.

Remember, not participating in the ‘race’ doesn’t mean giving up on competence, healthy competition, and doesn’t mean we give up upgrading our skill-set. It just means we keep upgrading what we need to upgrade, without the need to prove a point. It just means we look at our goals with an intention to enjoy the process, and work because we genuinely want to do something for ourselves, without the need to make a statement.

It just means being present in the moment, where all that matters is looking around and doing what makes us happy, contributing to our personal and professional growth.