Thoughts by Richard Bleil
When was it? I don’t even remember anymore. I’m not even sure if it was this lifetime.
I was in a natural science museum, a rather large one at that. Being a natural science museum, there was not a lot of foot traffic, at least not on this day. Maybe it was graduate school, which means I could have taken a day off in the middle of the week, and the population was large enough to support such a large museum.
I remember it had at least three floors. I was on the second or third, where they had set up a fair-sized enclosure for turtles. Not large turtles, mind you, maybe four or five inches in diameter, just little guys. So, the enclosure was nothing more than a raised painted concrete barrier forming a circle around the environment they had created. It was only about six inches tall, trivial for a person to walk in and out although why they would want to is beyond me since the floor of the enclosure was filled with water as I recall.
These are all trivialities. What struck me was one determined turtle, a little “fella” (or “lady”; I have no idea) who must have had enough. The enclosure was huge compared to the size of the turtles, but still, it was a limited world. This turtle was making a bee line straight for one side of enclosure. Most of the turtles were napping (I assume) or at least waiting for something to happen, but this turtle clearly had things to do and places to be and it was time to get there.
Noticing this busy lady (or fella), I walked around and stood at the wall where the turtle was heading. I was very curious about what this turtle wanted, since it looked very much like s/he had a plan. My movement nor my standing where the turtle was heading had no noticeable influence on the turtle’s plan. S/he didn’t flinch, slow or change direction.
Of course, it was a turtle. Watching this turtle running top speed towards the wall was like watching a slow-motion collision. I stood there for several minutes watching, fascinated, and wondering what would happen when s/he came to the wall.
What happened was nothing. The turtle didn’t slow down, turn away, or try to avoid the wall at all. I could swear I heard a cartoon-like slow-motion “thunk”, but it might have just been my imagination. As slow as s/he was moving, the turtle’s head quickly snapped back into its shell as if it was shocked that it ran into the wall. It’s head came back out almost immediately as it looked up at me, put one foot on the wall and seemed to be thinking, “Well, are you going to help me or just stand there like a big worthless lump?”
I feel like that turtle. It feels like I spent my entire professional career making a bee-line towards a goal as fast as my little legs can carry me, which isn’t very fast at all compared to the speed of today’s society, looming large over me and watching in great fascination as I head towards the barrier that will bring my trek to an end. I was feeling pretty good about myself, confident, happy, and “thunk”. It hit me out of the blue just like it did for that turtle, and it made me retract back into my shell. Now I’m stuck against that wall wondering why society won’t help me out past this barrier.
What did this turtle actually accomplish? Well, it got to its destination, I guess, although, did it? Or did it just get as close as the wall allowed? Or, did it accomplish something more profound? After all, here we are, so many years later that I can’t even remember where or when it happened, but because of that determination I still remember that little turtle. I don’t think I ever will, and now, that turtle is the focus of a blog. If it’s true that anything put on the web is “forever”, then these words are immortalizing that turtle. I truly doubt that the goal of this trek was because this turtle wanted to have an impact on somebody’s life, but it did.
I need to break free from this wall. I know a lot of people are feeling the same way. But is it the destination that’s important, or the trek? What matters more, winning or effort? Success or the courage? Find your courage, and I will seek mine.