Once a hare felt the need to win at all costs. “Winning isn’t everything,” the hare liked to quote a famous football sage on the meaning of life, “It’s the only thing.” Putting this nimble-witted philosophy 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. A fox also declined to compete, though, saying it preferred to trot across the field. 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 a far side to the field, I’ll reach it in my own good time. If there isn’t, what difference will it make how fast I go?” “Underachieving loser,” the hare declared, beginning to grow concerned about how it was ever going to prove itself among life’s winners if it couldn’t find any rivals to best. Then it recalled all those bands of inspirational speakers who 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!” Now the longed-for race could finally begin. The hare covered the first half of the course as though its feet never touched the ground. But then a sudden uncertainty stopped it in its tracks. What if it was only following the shortest path across the field in the shortest time? Winning a long-distance race against oneself must rank far above taking the laurels in a shorter one. So the hare went back to the starting point 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, though. Suppose it overlooked some small, even miniscule stretch of ground in following this random course. How could it 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 claim undisputed victory. So the hare took up this new mark and was off 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 © 2005, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans