Orthodox Crossing: Where’s my Bear?

In a recent episode of badly curated thoughts, I wrote in broad and unfocussed terms about the church and the internet. It is a prickly pear of topic and I did my best to confront it while avoiding it. Well, now there is something about internet theology that I cannot ignore. Namely, where is my bear?

Let me explain.

At the earliest of our doors into Orthodoxy my wife Anna and I went on an internet feast of Orthodox theology. Interviews with the big brand names, video seminars and memes.

Oh, the memes. Orthodoxy gives good meme and I would spool through them with newfound joy and curiosity, especially going back over the ones with Orthodox men and bears. You probably know the ones already. They reminded me of when I used to hang out with my horses; just milling around and having a parochial conversation. I used to have the best conversations with my first pony, Sunny. Just the best. I remember telling Anna that years ago and she wasn’t best pleased at the time, but that was okay. We all understand what it’s like with the animals we keep. We see the fine grain of their ways and can’t help but interact with it.

But I’d never had a bear friend and them memes were full of them. I began to get very excited at the prospect. But then a hesitation; we were soon to be christened into the church and I was having to think seriously about what I was going to do with my cub, which I assumed would be forthcoming.

‘I’m going to have to get a van,’ I said to Anna. ‘He is going to have to come gardening with me during the week. A long wheel base too because, I am pretty sure that bears get massive. Do bears get massive?’

She nodded.

‘Then it is going to get complicated. I’ve already been thinking about what it is reasonable to expect a bear to achieve as a trainee gardener. Digging they have to be good at already, surely. If we can give him an eye for identification maybe he could do some weeding and tilling. Got the claws for it. They have big claws, don’t they?’

She nodded again.

‘Ooh, yes’ she said. ‘Big ones.’

‘Well, I’m not even going to start thinking about letting him on the hedge trimmer for a while. Although he’ll have good reach by the sound of it. When he’s ready.’

‘Do you think your clients will mind?’

‘That is the other consideration. I will have to be careful acclimating him to them, and vice versa. Jean will probably just feed him though, so that one will be fine… unless he eats her fish. Do they eat fish?’

Another nod.

‘Then this is turning into a right pickle. Maybe it won’t be though. Maybe he’ll just crash out all day like Totoro.’

‘Maybe… maybe you should run this by Fr Panteleimon?’

‘What, and look like a right noob?! No, thank you! I’ve been around animals since forever and I’m not getting caught off guard with this one. Preparedness is key. Can you throw a saddle on top and ride them? I don’t remember any bear saddles when I used to go to the saddlers.’

There was suddenly no nodding now, not to any of it. The moment fell quiet and I thought of something.

‘So, what are you going to do with yours then?’ I asked.

‘I don’t think women get bears.’

‘What do you get then? A lovely black cat?’

‘Well yes, that would be lovely but I don’t think so. Do check the bear situation out with Fr. though.’

‘Get real…’

Well it got real, and it didn’t.

It got real in the sense that neither at our chrismation or since has a bear been either formally presented to me, nor even a bear thrown into the boot of my car as a surprise, which it always would be, even if you were expecting it, which I was.

But nothing. No real bear to raise and wrestle in the living room. Perhaps it would have eaten Anna’s cat? Perhaps it really would have mastered my new four-stroke strimmer? He could certainly get up into the conifers.

‘Bears are good climbers, aren’t they?’ I have since asked but my wife will no longer nod. I’ll have to go and find a meme with the real answer.

JW Bowe

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