Tag Archives: Gossip

The Long And Storied History Of The Turtle And The Ostrich


Once there were these two friends, a turtle and an ostrich. Now, people aren’t aware of the close relationship between turtles and ostriches, because they don’t go around advertising their mutual endeavors. They are the kind of people that like to quietly get things done behind the scenes without drawing too much attention to themselves.

It wasn’t always that way. They used to advertise and let everybody know whenever they would embark on a mutually beneficial endeavor, or at least an endeavor that they hoped would turned out to be a win win situation.

But the coconut incident changed everything. That was a watershed incident, that proved to near disastrous for them. Had it not been for the intervention of the rabbit community, they would have split long ago, and could have perhaps evolved to become bitter and mortal enemies. Of course, that’s not the way I turned out.

There was this great big coconut tree, in the middle of the jungle. The turtles have long know to use the shells of the coconuts to decorate the inside of their homes, while the ostriches have long used the coconut meat as source of energy, for both short bursts and long term lasting energy.

As they were hanging out next to the coconut tree one day, the ostrich and the turtle noticed each other. After a few minutes of cautiously eyeballing each other, they finally approached one another. When they discovered that they wanted different parts of the coconut, they struck a deal. The ostrich, with its long neck, would push the trunk of the coconut tree, and the turtle, with its deep digging ability, would dig underneath the tree and gnaw away at the roots.

After they hammered out their agreement, they were very proud of themselves. Up until that point, there hadn’t been any cross species agreement of any animals. They went back home, and bragged to all their neighbors of their negotiation skills. What they saw the next day shocked them.

There was a crowd of other animals gathered around the tree. Some were looking on with curiosity, some were gossiping about how an ostrich could stoop so low as to work with a turtle. Still others were wondering why the turtle would share what was rightfully theirs with somebody as silly as an ostrich, who is prone to stick his head in the sand whenever trouble comes around.

Pretty soon the turtle and the ostrich couldn’t concentrate on the task. All the attention started to create frustration and anxiety. What if the other was secretly trying to con the other? What if this whole thing was a trick to make the other look bad in front of all these people?

It didn’t take long for both the ostrich and the turtle to focus more on watching their respective backs than doing the job that they had agreed upon. Pretty soon, the work came to a stand still, and the turtle and ostrich confronted each other.

You are trying to steal from me!

No! You are trying to steal from me!

There was almost a war between the two societies.

Turtle vs. Ostrich.

The other animals were quickly taking up sides. This threatened the very peace of the jungle. Just as they were about to come to blows, the rabbit stepped in. Actually, several rabbits stepped in. They had yet to choose sides.

They took both the turtle and the ostrich to a secret location, where they engaged in dialogue. There, a funny thing happened. Once the turtle and the ostrich were removed from the gossiping crowd, they remembered their purpose. They remembered what they had set out to do.

Just to make sure, the rabbit asked each one, in turn, and in great detail, what they were after. He asked the ostrich to describe just how he wanted to use the long burning carbohydrates of the coconut meat. He asked the turtle, in great detail, just how he was going to use the unique structure of the coconut shell to decorate his house. After much discussion, the turtle and the ostrich found themselves giving each other helpful advice on how to use their respective part of the coconut.

Then the rabbit spoke.

“Why did you forget what you were after? Why did you let a crowd of people whom you do not even know, change the focus of your intention? Are you so concerned with their opinion of you, that you would forsake your own desires for their approval? Do you not realize that it is their own lack of conviction, their own weakness in not choosing their own paths, which gives them the need to find pleasure in the hopes that you would fail?”

Both the turtle and the ostrich laughed.

Before long the turtle and the ostrich were busily back at work, and before long, they had the coconut tree toppled, and their bounty was great. After separating out the meat from the shell, they both returned back to their respective communities.

Soon after, they had a feast to celebrate their successive partnership, and vowed to always work together whenever the opportunity presented itself. And strangely enough, other jungle animals started doing the same.

And that is how all the animals of the jungle learned to work together.

The Ancient Power of Idle Gossip

One of the things that I find really fascinating about talking to as many people as I do on a daily basis is that despite how anxious or chaotic their lives are, or how many things they have on their plates, they can always find time to talk about seemingly inconsequential things. I say seemingly inconsequential only because it appears that way on the surface. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that peoples day to day lives, as reflected in their conversations are rather mundane. The more you think about this, the more you can’t help but realize that language itself is one of the most least understood yet most fascinating things that you can begin to understand.

I was reading this book on evolutionary psychology. Some of it was kind of out there. Because of course, despite the commonly held belief that evolution is a scientific fact, it is still largely an unproven theory that people mistakenly believe as fact simply because it is accepted as such. It’s amazing when you study the history of scientific belief.  There are wild things that people believed that seem foolish in retrospect, but when you consider that it really wasn’t too long ago that most scientists believed the world was flat, you can’t help but to take currently held ‘truths’ with a grain of salt.

The purpose of language, for example, is a hotly contested topic among evolutionary biologists. Some believe that the same forces that drove spoken language in humans are the of the same reason that chimps groom each other. Both are thought to server the purpose of a way to determine where people are with respect to the current social hierarchy. According to that theory, the purpose of language is for gossip, to determine who is doing what with who and for what reason. While that may not be the specific reason, it is no stretch to look around and see that idle gossip is strongly compelling to most people.

One of the questions I get emailed to me the most often from people who read this blog on a regular basis is where I get all my ideas from. Although I admit that some people claim that I make this up as I go along, if you read some of my earlier posts, you’ll find that I have been interested in human development and maximizing my own achievement for quite some time now. When you think about it, communicating is a lot more complicated that just idle gossip, even if the surface structure of the conversation only seems to be concerned with daily events and relationships. Your individual history, your beliefs about the world, and your outlook on your own future all play a huge, unconscious role in shaping the language that you use. When you decide let go and release any fears that you may have, you can really begin to communicate more congruently. And when you do that, you can’t help but to be breath of fresh air to all who you come in contact with. One of the ways to become fully human is to stop looking for somebody that has the answers, and simply be that person that can help others find their own answers within.

Of course, there are many other theories of the origins of language. God made us the way we are, complete with our language ability. Or God had hand in guiding our evolution, so he was there helping us out along the way. Or if you don’t believe in God, there are other, more scientifically believable theories. Ancient tribes needed to communicate with each other so they could collectively remember where the dangerous animals lived. They had to communicate in order to organize effective hunting parties. They had to communicate well to plan for the coming winter.

It’s amazing the different theories that they come up with over time. Which is really fascinating. The more they begin to develop ways and machines that can peak inside our brains to see exactly how they work, they will begin to come up with even more abstract and wonderful ideas. And coming up with abstract and wonderful ideas is a fantastic sign of our humanity, which is alwasy driven to learn new things. 

I’m not saying you should keep all this in mind next time your are talking about who is dating who, or who is thinking of breaking up with who. I think a better idea would just be to become aware that there is a level of complexity that is just below the surface of the everyday sentences and nouns and verbs that people throw at each other without much thought, and to let these ideas come up whenever you are ready to think about them.