The Tortoise and the Hare

Over the last couple of weeks, several people have been “riffing” off an essay written by Nightprowlkitty, A Personal View: Discontent. I’m still thinking about it today.

I am not looking for new answers.

I am trying to see what is already here.  Right now.  Fully formed.

What makes that vision difficult is the bombardment of information, the daily tolling of the bad news bell of the United States of America, the evils that prompt the human spirit to react instead of respond.  This to me is the most difficult task, to make myself quiet enough to see the answer staring me in the face.  It is easy to write.  It is not easy to do.

What I’m thinking about today is a skill I learned growing up. My family was full of outspoken, larger-than-life people. And it was seriously dysfunctional. With everyone shouting to be heard, I made a decision at some point early on to be quiet, keep to myself and watch. That gave me some distance (which was a great thing in my family) as well as some perspective. It also gave me time to ask questions – mostly to myself – about what was happening and how I could get out of there with some sanity.

One of the “loud” people in my family was my brother who is 18 months younger than me. He was, in every way, the stereotypical bad boy of the family. He challenged everything loudly and strongly – and paid a price for that (goddess bless him!). When I was young and trying to NOT make waves, I hated him for always needing to stir things up. And I found a way to deal with him in my own “quiet” way. When he would come after me (literally sometimes), I would simply ignore him – the old “never let them see you sweat” action. Now that we’re adults and the best of friends, he tells me that no one was able to frustrate him more than I did with my cool “I can’t be bothered with you” kind of response.

Perhaps these are just childhood games that he and I played with each other to survive an untenable situation. But I’ve seen myself do the same thing in situations in my adult life. What always accompanies the cool detachment is a steely determination – the kind that says, “You can blow out all your steam here and now and I’ll still be standing, getting things done, when you fizzle.” I suppose its a take-off of the old fairy tale about the tortoise and the hare. Remind me again, who is it that crossed the finish line first??

I don’t mean any of this as a challenge to Buhdy’s “yell louder” meme. But perhaps there is some wisdom in the yin/yang of loud direct confrontation and the quiet steely determination that comes with the certainty that no one can ever take from you what isn’t theirs in the first place.  


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    • Edger on February 22, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    before I even read them? And how come I’m right every time I do it? My batting average isn’t this good in other areas… 😉

  1. who always learned the hard way, and taught me so much!!

  2. … a bit off topic … but I have found at work that when there’s a ton of pressure and the work seems impossible to get out in time, that if I slow down and block out all the panic-stricken reactions going on around me, I get the job done, and on time.

    Used to drive co-workers crazy when they saw me do that.  They felt the extra energy of hysteria was somehow called for — I actually once had a fellow worker scream at me “why are you so calm!” lol

    The value of quiet steely determination … oh yeah, Pandora, I have seen there is a great value to it indeed!


    • Alma on February 22, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    “never let them see you sweat”action


    Its come in handy quite a few times.  Including when I was a teen, and a drunk I knew was playing Russian Roulette and had a gun in his mouth.  I sent everyone out of the room, and talked him out of it.  Then when his girlfriend got home, she heard I had been alone in the room with him, and verbally attacked me.  I just walked away.  Later she heard the full story of what happened and came and thanked me.

    • Edger on February 22, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    called “The Center of the Cyclone: Looking Into Inner Space”.

    …a pioneer researcher into the nature of consciousness using as his principal tools the isolation tank, dolphin communication and psychedelic drugs, sometimes in combination. He was a prominent member of the Californian counterculture of scientists, mystics and thinkers that arose in the late 1960s and early 70s. Albert Hofmann, Gregory Bateson, Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Werner Erhard, and Richard Feynman were all frequent visitors to his home.

    On the back cover he says: “Within the province of the mind, What I believe to be true is true or becomes true, within the limits to be found experientially or experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended.”

    In his introduction Lilly quotes G. Spencer Brown, from “The Laws of Form”:

    To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practices, requires years of contemplation. Not activity. Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behavior of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is one needs to know. And yet those with the courage to treat this path to real discovery are not only offered practically no guidance on how to do so, they are actively discouraged and have to set about it in secret, pretending meanwhile to be diligently engaged in the frantic diversions and to conform with the deadening personal opinions that are continually being thrust upon them.

    In these circumstances, the discoveries that any person is able to undertake represent the places where, in the face of induced psychosis, he has, by his own faltering and unaided efforts, returned to sanity. Painfully, and even dangerously, maybe. But nonetheless returned, however furtively.

    Lilly also said in the book: “The Center of the Cyclone is the story of my personal search for meaning in life.”

    With everyone shouting to be heard, I made a decision at some point early on to be quiet, keep to myself and watch.

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