The Story of the Hare and the Tortoise is one of Aesop’s fables. Like in all fables (apologues) there has to be a moral at the end. There has to be something we need to learn from. Likewise, we will now try to learn from The Story of the Hare and the Tortoise (SHT) v3.0.
I could straight away tell you the story and then discuss the lesson we can learn from it. But It would be like seeing the third part of The Matrix trilogy without seeing the first two. I can only imagine the reactions of those viewers who went to the third part of the movie without seeing the first two. As a matter of fact, in spite of seeing the first two parts my reaction to the third part was no different.
SHT v1.0 – Aesop’s fable :
Briefly; there was a race between a hare and a tortoise. When the race began the hare raced ahead as expected. Being complacent and seeing himself well in the lead he decided to take rest under a tree. With the cool breeze blowing and the shade of the tree for comfort the hare dozed off (pretty much like the back-benchers in my school). On hearing the other beasts cheering the tortoise, the hare got up and realised that the tortoise had not only overtaken him but almost reached the finishing line. He ran as fast as he could but could not beat the tortoise. The unexpected happened. The tortoise won the race. The moral is that ‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race’.
SHT v2.0 – The Story as written by Lord Dunsany (not the same as my sindhi friend’s father Mr. Dunsani) :
Lord Dunsany himself never referred to his version as v2.0. He thought of this as the original. The beginning is more or less the same. The race starts. The hare dashed off and after running for a hundred yards stopped to look back and see where his rival was. Then he sat down and scratched himself (something like what Aamir used to do in Ghajini). “It is rather absurd,” he said “to race with a tortoise”.
Meanwhile the tortoise overtook him amongst the cheering of all his beast friends (those days there were no designated cheerleaders). After a while as the tortoise drew near to him he thought to himself “There comes the damned tortoise”. He once again got up and ran as hard as he could so that he should not let the tortoise beat him (something like how Aamir stopped beating Ghajini and then suddenly started to beat him again).
The hare ran again for nearly three hundred yards, nearly in fact as far as the winning post, when it suddenly struck him what a fool he looked running races with a tortoise who was nowhere in sight, and he sat down again and scratched (something like Kulbhushan Kharbanda in Shaan). “Whatever is the use of it?” thought the hare, and this time he stopped for good.
There was desparate excitement for an hour or two amongst the other beasts and then the tortoise won. “Hard shell and hard living; that is what has done it.” said everyone. “It is a glorious victory for the forces of swiftness.”
In SHT v2.0 Lord Dunsany brings out the view that the hare realises the stupidity of the challenge and refuses to proceed any further. The obstinate tortoise continues to the finishing line and is proclaimed the swiftest by his backers.
SHT v3.0 :
Long long ago, there was doubt with acrimony amongst the beasts as to whether the Hare or the Tortoise could run the swifter. Some said that the Hare was swifter of the two (something like Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious) while others said the Tortoise was swifter because he had a hard shell (something like Vin Diesel in xXx).
Just then the cunning jackal (something like Mike Myers as Dr. Evil in Austin Powers) came in and suggested Vin and Vin to have a Sisyphean race.
Can you imagine the look on the Vinses faces? They never knew what Myers meant. Vin (one of the two) held a gun on Myers’s head and agitatedly said “Sisyphus to you, you Mother%*($@#. Don’t you dare threaten me”.
Sanity prevailed and Myers explained thus:
A Sisyphean race is a race where the finishing line is the beginning of another race. So basically the race never ends, except by death. And that is exactly what Myers wanted. That the Vinses should die and he could eat a good meal. Ofcourse it was not very difficult to convince the Vinses. Myers just spelt out the rules and left out the fine-print (like the Risk Factors in Offer Documents). It is just amazing what a little bit of “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses” speech can do. After all they were animals and “herd mentality” was not uncommon to them.
The real story goes like this (flashback in a flashback). King Sisyphus. a King in Greek mythology, ruled over his kingdom and wasn't a very good king. As punishment the Gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a huge rock to the top of a mountain, from where the rock would fall back of its own weight. The Gods had thought that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. Every time poor Sisyphus managed to get it to the top, the rock rolled down and he had to repeat the task. Anyway, when you refer to a task as being "Sisyphean", what you are implying is that you are involved in endless and meaningless labour, that which can be brought to a stop only by death.
Myers basically wanted to eat the Vinses (or atleast one of them) as well as have fun while they kill themselves.
The race starts. Everytime they thought one of them had won the race, the next one began. Everytime they saw the finishing line with some sense of achievement, the next race began. Everytime they felt as if happiness was round the corner, the next race began.
While Vin and Vin are in between their 21st race, let us discuss the moral. SHT v3.0 puts up an apparent paradox but it is also an apologue. It has a moral like the previous two versions. Infact the moral of v3.0 develops on that of v2.0.
Rising in the morning, taking the train (or the BMW), ten hours in the office (or fourteen hours on the smart phone), sleep. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday and Sunday according to the same rhythm. This is our life. This is our Sisyphean race.
One day the “why” arises. We scratch our heads like all the bald heroes (it does not matter whether we are bald or balding). But unfortunately, after a little bit of scratching we get back to our Sisyphean race again, until it is time to scratch our heads again.
We live on the future; “tomorrow,” “later on,” “after we have made it”. Do we think of ourselves as immortal? Procrastinating for the future is irrelevant for our today. Such irrelevancies may feel wonderful, but the thing to remember is that, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Whether the absurdity of Our Sisyphean race dies before Us - that is the question.
We are busy in trying not to miss a deadline, but what if we are dead before time. We have our “needs”, “impulses”, “reflexes”, “urges”, “hungers”, “wants” and “desires”. Whether in trying to gain all this, we are losing the one thing that we truly own, our life - that is the question.
From Pandora’s box, where all the ills of humanity swarmed, the last one to be drawn out was “Hope”; after all the other ills. This was the most dreadful of all. As Albert Camus tells us, “Hope equals to resignation. And to live is not to resign oneself.”
One is running a race with the other. Absurd marriages, jobs, challenges, wars and achievements. For each one of these absurdities springs from a comparison. And the comparison arises from the consent which has not been engineered by us, unfortunately. We have inherited the “herd mentality”. Whether we are still animals - that is the question.
While we have asked so many questions, the Vinses are now in between their 34th race.
The answer may not be in going to Morocco and throwing your livelihood (like Hrithik did with Katerina in Zindegi Na Milegi Dobara; although, going with Katerina for three months is not exactly a bad idea). The answer may be in the question, what is worth the trouble of living on this earth? There is always a spot where one’s heart will feel at peace. Virtue, art, music, reason or simply the Mind. Something with which melancholy rises in our heart.
To know our “passion” should be our interest.
Whether or not we can live “without passion” is all that should concern us.
Can we adapt ourselves to the life given to us without compromising on our “passion” is our only race.
As Camus asks “Whether one can live with one’s passion, whether or not one can accept their law, which is to burn the heart they simultaneously exalt” - that is the question. And to find the answer we need to THINK our way to the Truth, as Plato (or the ancient wise men) taught and not to FEEL our way, as Hugh Heffner is teaching us today. In the words of Nietzsche (who always has the right words for everything), we need to put the “cult of reason.....in place of the cult of feeling.”
So coming back to our story. Vin and Vin(the other one) are in between their 55th race. Vin looked at Vin (the other one) and said “It seems Myers has played a joke on you.” To which Vin (the other one) replied, “Maybe the joke is on you, Vin.” And the Vinses argued thus.
Is the joke being played on you? Is our life similar to the people in the Matrix whose real existence was inside their pods?
There are those who are made for dying and there are those who are meant for living. Like the Hare in v2.0 it is best that we realise and understand as to what is the extent of the futility of our race. As Dumbledore (the other one) said “It does not matter if you lie to me, but what troubles me is that you are lying to yourself.” Or else, in our Sisyphean race it will be the rock’s victory.