There are times in our lives when there is pain and suffering. There are days when the world news seems to be filled with nothing but darkness. There is a culture of fear that we are subjected to on so many levels, it feels like we are being stifled in our quest for a life of joy and peace. The events which have taken place around the world over the past few days, weeks and months are harrowing, tragic, and painful beyond words. There seem to be mixed reactions of hatred and retaliation, or a cry for peace and compassion. One is based on fear; the other is on love.
I was reading to my son, recently. The story, in case you are not familiar with it, follows an excited family walk, as they go On A Bear Hunt. On each page, they exclaim, “we’re going to catch a big one. What A Beautiful Day! We’re not scared.” However, as they trundle on their way, they face a variety of challenging obstacles, which the family try to work out how to overcome. As they consider the best way of trying to avoid meeting them, they realise the only way to get past the obstruction is to go through it. Eventually, they get to a dark cave, come face to face with a bear, then run all the way back home to the sanctuary of a duvet in which to hide from the bear, who has chased them all the way. The bear then walks – I perceive as rather forlornly – back to his cave.
Now personally, I have always felt sorry for the bear; and as I read the story for the several hundredth time in my parenting career (not counting the number of times I enthusiastically pored over the pages with small children when on my work experience placements as a teenager in a primary school), I realised that to me, the story represents the way in which we (by which I mean humanity in general) deal with our challenges and obstacles in life. Generally, we may go through our life – perhaps excitedly optimistic about the day ahead – but as we meet the inevitable twists and turns, we have to make some decisions about whether to avoid the obstacles, or face them head-on. So if we do “go through it” to overcome the challenges we face, we may meet our intended goal, only to find it isn’t how we expect it to be. Sometimes we have no choice but to go through these obstacles, to weather the storms, in order to conquer the fears we have. Sometimes, to meet our greatest fear is too much to “bear”, so we run away and hide from it, leaving the fear unchallenged and unconquered, yet potentially missing so much. What if the bear, despite his grizzly (frightening) appearances, turns out to be friendly, unconditionally giving and possesses a depth of understanding with an unmet desire to share with us that we were previously unaware of? What if the bear was chasing after the family not to hurt them, but to help heal them from their fear? What if the bear, as it walked slowly back to its cave, felt like it had not met its challenge in life to overcome the reactions of fear and hate, and so felt somehow bereft and misunderstood? There is a part of me that worries about the bear, because I know I have to make friends with my fears and turn down the volume on the voice of doubt I have. I have to learn to love the bear.
This is how I feel about what’s happening in the world, right now. There is so much fear, hatred and running away to barricade us from the “terror” that dwells outside, but it is additionally internal. Whilst there are various sections of society who say they want to do Something to Make It Better, when they are afforded that luxury of actually being able to, they hide away; or worse still, they abuse the luxury or instead retaliate with fear and hate. I ask that we all look at the bear we may be running away from, and instead greet it with love and compassion. Don’t walk through life trying to avoid the obstacles on the path ahead, but go through them, feeling grateful for the experience, no matter how horrific and terrifying it might be. I believe that something good HAS to come from something bad, and that starts with facing our darkest fears and holding up the light to see it in its entirety. We cannot go on hiding away from the painfully obvious, any longer.