May 20 2009
The turtle wished he could fly…and it was so.
As he floated away, he looked down at his turtle friends and felt no sorrow. Some day he would fly their way again. They would welcome him back with open arms and it would be good.
For years, he flew to new lands and saw great things. He looked down on the gazelles and the plains, the saw the high trees of the rainforest and the wallowing hippos in the Amazon river. He travelled to man made cities and rested atop high concrete towers. He witnessed the turning of time from on high and it was beautiful.
Then he flew with the eagle and the eagle’s family. The eagle greeted him with a smile and they all flew high into the clouds together. For days, the turtle soared with the birds and the eagle showed him many great things. Sometimes he would catch the eagle looking inquisitively at him. For the first few times he let it pass – it was fun to watch the great bird’s confusion at the flying turtle.
Then, after a week, he said to the eagle, “You stare at me strangely, you know?”
“I am sorry. I do not mean to… I was wondering…” The eagle’s voice trailed off. He was unsure if he should continue.
“If you want to ask me a question, ” said the turtle, “please, go ahead”.
“Where is your family?” asked the eagle.
The turtle was stunned. He did not expect this question.
“What do you mean? Do you not want to ask me how it is that I fly? Do you not want to know what I’ve seen? Do you not want to know what it is like for a turtle to see the world from the eagle’s viewpoint?”
“But you are not an eagle. What use is there in seeing all these wonders, if you have no family, no friends to share them with?”
The eagle felt so sorry for the turtle. The turtle stared on. He did not want to fly anymore. He realised that seeing all these great things on high was empty. He experienced nothing. He was not living.
Resolute, he flew off at speed. He flew day and night without pause. Over the mountains and rivers and trees and animals and seas, he flew, ignoring all of it, knowing where he wanted to be.
He was home. High above, he looked down on his old friends. There seemed to be more turtles now and his friends had aged. He supposed that he must look aged too.
He flew down and proclaimed, “friends, fellow turtles, I am home. I am returned.”
With a slow, gentle and warm glance, one of his old friends nodded in acknowledgement at the returning turtle. Then he turned his back and walked away.
The other turtles, one by one, did the same.
“But why don’t you talk to me,” the turtle asked. “I have seen great things and I want to share them with you, I want you to know all the wonders I have known.”
One of them turned and spoke, “Old friend, we are happy for you. We are happy that you have done well and have seen great wonders. But we have grown older and moved on. We have families and other responsibilities. Though we wish you well, there is no place for you here now. Goodbye.”
He did not fly off. He merely lay there alone and shed a tear. In seeking greatness, he had missed his whole life.