The Fable of the Determined Alligator
There once was an alligator named Chauncey who lived in a swamp near a mango tree. Every day Chauncey looked up at the mangoes that grew in the tree over his head, watching them turn brilliant yellow and orange colors as they ripened. The birds told Chauncey that the fruit was the best they had ever tasted, and the more they boasted of their ability to fly up and taste the mangoes anytime they wanted, the more Chauncey wanted to try one. He decided one day that he had had enough, and he set about meeting his goal: he was going to taste a mango no matter what it took.
The birds suggested that Chauncey climb the tree. Chauncey had no idea how to go about it, so he went to his friend the lizard and asked for advice. The lizard said, “No problem, pal! Just dig your claws into the trunk and pull yourself up. It’s easy!” And the lizard scampered up the tree and perched on a mango.
“I think I can do that,” Chauncey said as he looked at his own claws. He hauled himself out of the water and dug his claws into the trunk of the mango tree. He pulled and pulled, trying to move his body closer to the fruit, but he couldn’t lift himself up very far. “The lizard made it look so easy,” Chauncey complained. After a few more tries, Chauncey was forced to give up, slumping back down into the water. “There’s got to be a way to get to those mangoes.”
Chauncey asked the gorilla for help. “When I want mangoes, I just shake the branches, like this.” The gorilla wrapped his hands around one and shook the tree until a mango fell. The gorilla promptly scooped up the fruit and ate it in a few bites. “It’s easy!” he said.
Chauncey wanted a mango more than ever as he watched the gorilla finish his snack. Determined, Chauncey dug his claws into the tree and tried to shake it. Unfortunately, because his forearms were short, and most of his weight was still on the ground, he didn’t have enough leverage. With a sigh, Chauncey slid morosely under the water.
A fish swam by and saw the sad look on Chauncey’s face. “What’s wrong, Chauncey?”
“I’ll never know what a mango tastes like,” he said. “I’ve tried climbing the tree, and I’ve tried shaking it. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” he sighed morosely.
“I don’t even know what a mango is,” said the fish, “so who cares what they taste like?” And he swam away.
Chauncey thought and thought, and the more he pondered his situation, the more he considered what the fish said. If only he hadn’t seen the mangoes in the first place, he wouldn’t want one so badly. If only he hadn’t listened to the birds as they boasted about how good the mangoes tasted. He wished he’d never lay eyes on mangoes again. And yet, when he surfaced, there they were: three golden fruits swung from the branch, taunting him. Chauncey fell asleep in the shade of the tree.
He awoke suddenly when he felt water dripping on his face. He blinked. That wasn’t water, it was a thick, syrupy goo that was dripping from…a mango! Chauncey skittered backward and held his jaws wide as the drops of syrup collected under the fruit. He waited patiently as the juice dripped slowly into his open mouth. His tongue danced with joy as he finally tasted the fruit’s juice. Now he knew what the mango tasted like. And to his shock, he discovered he didn’t like it! He was a carnivore after all.
Moral: If you expend all your energy working toward an unrealistic goal, you may find your efforts have been wasted on something that wasn’t right for you anyway.