Bears and boundaries
Being a bear wouldn’t be such a bad gig. Working in the Rocky Mountains, I bumped into a number of a bears over the years, a few grizzlies but mostly black bears. Quite a life. One adolescent black bear we named “Elvis” used to just sit, or occasionally wander around, by the edge of the treeline while our tree planting crew was hard at work. Day after day we would come to work, on a large cut-block (an area that had been logged) in British Columbia, and day after day Elvis would come and watch us work. Fill up on berries when it is warm, hang-out in the forest, watch the people, hibernate when it gets cold…not bad. Not bad at all.
Seldom in a hurry, I have watched many bears wander nearby through the woods as if they had all the time in the world. When you are big and furry, armed with claws and teeth and lightning fast, you can afford to take your time. One day a massive grizzly bear decided to pay two unsuspecting young girls in our group a visit. They were working together halfway up the mountain and they both had headphones on. Music can be motivational, but it would have been nice for them to know that there was an incredibly large, and potentially ferocious, furry visitor on the way.
It was total pandemonium. Everyone who noticed was yelling, honking horns, jumping around, waving their arms, desperately trying to warn the young women off in the distance and frighten the approaching bear. But all the noise didn’t make one bit of difference. The grizzly just kept right on coming, slowly, methodically, making its way up the mountain towards two tiny and now terrified tree planters, who had finally noticed what was going on. The grizzly stopped briefly next to the girls, as if to say hello to his new human friends, and then slowly meandering up the mountain. What a relief.
A lumberjack, who had been making a racket with his chainsaw further up the mountain, was also cordially and casually greeted by the same bear. Just making his rounds, I guess.
There is something wrong with the world and there is a special role for humanity
A dangerous confrontation was not at all something I desired. Even now, as I think about these creatures, I have an affection for them in my heart. I only wish that they all felt the same way. “The bear was gnawing on my head,” one fellow in our company said, “before I realized what was going on.” He had been walking to the cook tent for breakfast, enjoying the fresh mountain air, when a black bear came charging out of the woods and attacked him. For no particulur reason. The bear started chewing on his head. It is painful even to talk about it. But somehow this young man fought back, together with his friends, and survived to tell his story.
For many years, eight actually, I spent the summers in the mountains, with the bears, and the winters in the library. I was studying theology, among other things. During that time I came across a couple basic Christian beliefs that seemed to come to life. The first, was that this world is not the way it was originally created; it is fallen, to use the lingo. The second, was that humanity was responsible to care for creation; this was their God-given responsibility.
Everybody I knew seemed to have a practical belief in the “fall” even though many claimed to have moved beyond their predominately Christian heritage. Somehow we just all knew. We got it. We felt it in our bones. Getting attacked by a large beast in the forest wasn’t just unfortunate, or undesirable, it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. There is something wrong with the world and there is a special role for humanity.
The bears didn’t seem to be doing much of anything aside from looking out for themselves, and educated people everywhere were okay with that. I have yet to hear anyone taking issue with the bears lackadaisical lifestyle. After all, they are just bears. Everybody knows that there is a big break between humanity and the bear community. People expect more from people. We should be doing more of this or more of that. We should be nicer to the bears,etc. Bears are beasts, when it comes right down to it, that require the care of creatures that are not.
Bears require our care. And that is just the beginning. Trees that are chopped down need to be replaced. Most legitimate jobs or careers plug into humanity’s higher calling, somehow.
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