Once a hare was driven by the need to win at all costs. “Winning isn’t everything,” the hare liked to quote a famous sports coach, “It’s the only thing.” Putting this philosophical gem into action wasn’t easy, however. When the hare challenged a deer to race across an open field, the deer merely looked at it with eyes that said, “Ambling about would be more pleasant, I should think.” “Aimless loser,” the hare declared and went off in search of a more worthy opponent to best. A fox also declined to compete against the hare, though, saying it preferred to trot leisurely across the field in question. If it ran too fast, it might miss a tasty mouse in the grass and then what would winning a mere race matter? “Calculating loser,” the hare declared. Even a tortoise couldn’t be bothered to take up the challenge. “What’s the point,” it asked. “If there’s something of worth on the far side of the field, I’ll reach it in my own good time. If there isn’t, what difference will it make how fast I get there?” “Underachieving loser,” the hare declared, beginning to grow concerned about how it was ever going to prove itself to be one of life’s winners if it couldn’t find any rivals to beat. Then it recalled all those inspirational speakers who’d said one’s greatest rival in any endeavor should be oneself, not others. “That’s the answer!” it rejoiced. “If I’m the only runner worthy of my challenge, I’ll run against myself! And win!” At last, the longed-for race could begin. The hare covered the first half of the course as though its feet never touched the ground. But then a sudden uncertainty brought it to a standstill. What if it was only following the shortest path across the field in the shortest time? Winning a long-distance race against oneself must surely rank above taking the laurels in a shorter one. So the hare went back to the starting line and set off anew. This time, it raced wildly every which way, seeking the longest possible distance between start and finish. Soon a new uncertainty brought the hare up short again, however. Suppose in following this random course, it overlooked some small, even miniscule stretch of ground. How could the hare claim to have won the longest race if it didn’t cover every last inch? The only solution seemed to be to start in the exact center of the field and run in wider and wider circles until it reached the edge and could declare undisputed victory. So the hare took up this new mark and was off once again, racing like the wind in endless circles, looking as if it was chasing its own tail around and around, never certain whether it was ahead or behind. But convinced more than ever that winning wasn’t everything—it was the only thing.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans