The Fable of the Climbing Bear

medium_5059809821There once was a bear cub.  He heard that the beehives in the tallest tree in the forest had the most amazing honey anywhere, so every day he tried to climb it.

Each morning, the bear cub kissed his mother goodbye and headed deeper into the forest.  He walked past all of the other bears who scoffed at him for his stubbornness.  “There are plenty of delicious berries on these bushes here on the ground”, they said with berry juice dripping from their cheeks.

Once he arrived at the tallest tree each day, he began to climb, always looking for the famed honey-filled beehives.  And, each day, he soon realized that the vultures had moved the beehives to new branches, higher up the tree.  They perched on the upper branches, mocking his frustration. “You don’t deserve this honey,” they cawed.  “Bears aren’t important like us.”

Despite the challenge, or perhaps inspired by it, he continued his climb each day.  As he grew ever closer to the beehives and their treasure, the bees emerged and pestered him.  Flying around his head and buzzing in his ears, they chanted “You need to work harder.  You need to climb faster.”

And, each day, as the sun began to set, the bear cub gave up on his quest.  He climbed back down the tree–hungry, lonely, and defeated–and returned home to his mother.  As he settled in to sleep for the night, one thought always brought hope to his mind.  “Every day I get closer to the honey.  As I grow and get stronger, I will eventually reach it,” he thought as he fell asleep.

And then one bright and sunny day, the bear began his odyssey again.  He did not know that this would be the last time.  He kissed his mother, swallowing the lump of guilt in his throat.  He passed the other bears who chastised him for taking the tougher path.  He ignored the vultures who made his challenge more difficult for no reason other than their own self-importance.  The bear even put out of his mind the demanding bees and their harassment.

As he climbed higher, he began to feel that he had reached a new height in his journey.  It seemed that he had never climbed this high before.

As he paused for a moment to enjoy the sense of victory, he noticed a scratch on the trunk just above him.  A scratch that he knew had come from his own claws.  He was, in fact, no higher than he had reached many times before.  He was no closer to the honey than any other day.  He looked at his body and became aware that he was no longer a cub.  He was full-grown and his muscles were fully developed.  This was as close to the beehives as he would ever be.

The bear made a choice at that moment.  He thought about his family and his friends and his time and energy.  He realized that if he climbed back down that tree for the last time, he would no longer be able to say, “At least I try, everyday, to get the honey.”

After a long period of deep thought, and as the sun dipped just below the horizon, the bear turned and climbed down the tallest tree in the forest for the last time.

photo credit: m24instudio via photopin cc