People have been on earth in our present form for only about 100,000 years, and in so many ways we’re still ironing out our kinks. These turtles we’ve been traveling with, they outrank us in longevity, having earned three more zeros than we. They’ve got one hundred million years of success on their resume, and they’ve learned something about how to survive in the world. And this, I think, is part of it: they have settled upon peaceful career paths, with a stable rhythm. If humans could survive another one hundred million years, I expect we would no longer find ourselves riding bulls. It’s not so much that I think animals have rights; it’s more that I believe humans have hearts and minds- though I’ve yet to see consistent, convincing proof of either. Turtles may seem to lack sense, but they don’t do senseless things. They’re not terribly energetic, yet they do not waste energy… turtles cannot consider what might happen yet nothing turtles do threatens anyone’s future. Turtles don’t think about the next generation, but they risk and provide all they can to ensure that there will be one. Meanwhile, we profess to love our own offspring above all else, yet above all else it is they from whom we daily steal. We cannot learn to be more like turtles, but from turtles we could learn to be more human. That is the wisdom carried within one hundred million years of survival. What turtles could learn from us, I can’t quite imagine.
Warren Buffett is one of the best learning machines on this earth. The turtles which outrun the hares are learning machines. If you stop learning in this world, the world rushes right by you.
The lesson of every extinction, says the Smithsonian’s Doug Erwin, is that we can’t predict what the world will be 5 million years later by looking at the survivors.There will be plenty of surprises. Let’s face it: who would’ve predicted the existence of turtles? Who would ever have imagined that an organism would essentially turn itself inside out, pulling its shoulder girdle inside its ribs to form a carapace? If turtles didn’t exist, no vertebrate biologist would’ve suggested that anything would do that: he’d have been laughed out of town. The only real prediction you can make is that life will go on. And that it will be interesting.
Human beings can learn valuable lessons in conservation of necessary personal resources for accomplishing the fundamental tenants of life by observing a judiciously paced turtle determinedly and stealthily traversing the world.