“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”
—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a ‘new world’, so they organised a school. They adopted a training curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. All the animals were required to excel in all the subjects.
The duck was excellent in swimming. But he got only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practise. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he became only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in the school, so nobody worried about that… except the duck.
The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because he had so much remedial work in swimming.
The squirrel was excellent in climbing but failed flying, so he was held back and forced to repeat the year and made to focus exclusively on flying.
The eagle was a problem child. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there. So he was disciplined severely.
At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.
The prairie dogs stayed out of the school completely because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum.
The story above is an adaptation from George Reavis’ The Animal School, written in 1940. It is one of my favourite little pieces of writing when it comes to the topic of an individual’s natural talents and abilities, because it highlights—in a sarcastically comical way—a significant problem faced by far too many individuals today. That problem is that we try to ignore our own genius and seek to change what we truly are… to fit someone else’s mould.
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