The tortoise exists on different levels: first, as a real physical creature of many kinds. He’s the gigantic Galapagos beast, thankfully far away from civilization; second, as an exhibit at your local zoo, he entertains us as a curiosity; and third, he’s an ancient symbol in folklore, literature, philosophy and religion. To my knowledge he’s never done malicious damage in the world. People who know him as a pet say he’s affectionate. He’s been an aphrodisiac and he’s carried the world on his back. Being smart, he represents knowledge and wisdom. Among his many virtues I cite pride, steadfastness, caution, perseverance and persistence — most likely a good listener. As a model you want him around when your task seems arduous, even impossible — when plodding progress seems infinitely slow. Highly protected in his hard shell and deceiving camouflage, he’s nevertheless learned to be careful and reticent when he pokes into the adventures of life. He’s no coward but knows that human beings are potentially his worst enemy. Eventually the tortoise “gets there.” No one ever knows where he’s going or where he’s been. Perhaps it takes too much time to find out. He’s most comfortable and secure in his own hide.
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