[1]Dylan wakes up to a loud crunching sound. A black bear is chewing on his head, holding him down with one paw. Dylan is an instructor at a wilderness survival camp in Colorado. He’s surviving right now. He resists the bear and other instructors are trying to drive the bear off. Wanting to eat in peace, the bear drags Dylan a bit and then drops him to search for something a little more hassle free.

There was no reason for the bear to come into camp. Food was hung away from camp along with cooking utensils and scented toiletries like sun block, toothpaste, and deodorant. They cooked away from camp to keep odors and food bits away. The instructors instructed the campers as they should. They did everything right. The bear had no reason to think these humans were a food source.

But there was a reason. We just don’t know what it is and that’s what makes us squirm about this whole thing, besides the visceral image of a bear crunching a human skull with the human still in it and inhaling lungful after lungful of its rotted meat breath in great heaving gasps.

Dylan didn’t deserve it. He and the group had done everything right. But as Clint Eastwood says, “Deserves got nothin’ to do with it kid.”[2] There’s good luck and there’s bad luck – wrong place wrong time moments in spite of our best efforts. Shit just happens and sometimes that’s end of trying to figure it out.

Dylan understands and bears the bear no grudge or malice. With nine staples in his head, Dylan says, “I’m not afraid of the bears. I’m not afraid of sleeping outside anymore. You just have to be aware and respect the animals.” But see, that’s the point! They were aware and respecting the animals, but that didn’t stop the bear from being a bear.

As forgiving as victim Dylan might be, Colorado Parks and Wildlife isn’t. They unleashed their bloodhounds and went on the hunt. A spokesman for the department explained the attack had caused such hysteria in the area, they expected any bear found to be killed.

Left unchecked and unrecognized, vulnerability can be the result of so much brokenness and cause so much erratic overcompensation, sometimes in ways that have nothing to do with the root fear. We’ll never kill all the hungry bears. Sometimes it just takes a moment to remind ourselves we don’t have to be afraid of being afraid.

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  1. [1]
  2. [2]Unforgiven