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The Awkward Dolphin

Imagine that you’re a horse.

But you don’t know, because you’ve been brought up by a school of dolphins.

For years you’ve been swimming with them and getting on OK. You’ve felt a bit awkward at times, and wondered how they seem to have more stamina than you and go faster quite effortlessly. But you’ve just thought that you were an awkward dolphin.

One day, as you’re swimming close to the shore, you see an animal walking on four legs. A flash of mutual recognition passes between you, and you feel disoriented. Inquisitive, you walk up the shore and say hello. “Hi”, says the horse. Hours pass in what seems like minutes. You feel so at home. Everything the horse says rings true about your own life.

Eventually you turn back towards the sea, saying that you must get back. “Why?”, says the horse “Horses live on land”.

“Yes, but I’m a dolphin”, you say.

“I think you’re a horse, just like me” replies the horse. “Why don’t you stay a while longer?”

So you stay.

A few days later, you hear a call from the sea. “Hey! When are you coming back to the sea?”

“I, I don’t think I am” you say. “I feel so at home here. It’s like this environment was created just for me. I don’t get tired here, and – look – I can do this!”

You rear up on your hind legs and gallop off down the beach faster than any dolphin can swim.

The dolphins start chattering about interventions and rudeness and land-like behaviour before eventually losing interest and talking about coral and just doing general dolphin shit.

But you are happier than you’ve ever been. Your legs get stronger. You understand more horse language than you ever thought possible.

Weeks later, you venture further along the beach and hear a commotion. A school of dolphins seems to be attacking some of the other horses. They have ropes around them and are dragging them into the sea. They’re chattering about behaviours and interventions and horse awareness. They’re giving the horses big lists of things that they “Need to do to fit in better”. They’re even talking about detecting horse-ism early. Nobody knows why.

You shout “Hey! Leave the horses alone!” but your horse friends tell you “It’s no good. They don’t hear horse voices above their clicky dolphin chatter. They only listen to other dolphins who claim to be horse experts.”

“We can’t do anything?” you ask.

“No” says your friend. “Not today. But one day, when the dolphins finally understand that horses are just as much part of life as they are, that all horses are different just like all dolphins are different, that some are strong and some struggle just like dolphins do, then maybe they will let us each be the best horse that we can be instead of making us pretend to be dolphins.”

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