Turtle Shells

Imagine how fast a turtle would be without its shell. The shell of an Aladbra Giant Tortoise weighs in at about 31% of the entire creature's mass. It would be like the average American female carrying a forty-pound backback everywhere she went. The fastest two minutes in sports would take quite a bit longer if Secretariat's jockey was Andre the Giant.

Turtles have shells. They could spend their entire lives denying this fact, but it wouldn't make it any less true. Turtles have shells and they are slow.

Aesop would have you believe that slow and steady wins the race, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Usain Bolt wins the race. Bugatti Veyron Super Sports win the race. Hares win the race.

A turtle must wonder how much better life would be without that silly thing. How much easier would life be without that shell weighing things down? How much easier would that be on the legs? How much faster could it get around? How much more nourishment, water, and fun could a turtle find if it had increased mobility?

Forget that the shell serves as permanent shelter. Forget that the shell is a turtle's single best defense against predator attacks. Forget that in large part because of the shell turtles have survived over 220 million years on earth. Shells are oppressive. Turtles must revolt.

The only problem is this: a turtle shell is not just figuratively the animal's backbone. A turtle shell is the backbone. It's about 60 bones worth of a turtle's skeleton. Without it, a turtle cannot live.

It's easy for us to think we carry the world's weight on our shoulders. It's easy to think that if that shell would just go away, everything would be better. It's easy to think that the cost of our shells far exceed their benefit. It's easy to forget that the one thing keeping us together is the one thing keeping us together.

It's easy to underestimate benefits and exaggerate costs.