My Dominican Study group is having a very interesting workshop. We have two facilitators leading us in a program called, "Facing History and Ourselves." The leaders are teachers: Doc Miller, and Steve Pope.
Tonight we talked about "Identity." We began with reading a children's book, "The Bear that Wasn't," by Frank Tashlin. Simply put, the story is about a bear who hibernates in the winter, while a factory is built above. When he wakes up, he's in the middle of the factory. The foreman yells at him to get back to work. The bear tries to explain that he's a bear and not a man working in the factory. The foreman calls him a "silly man who needs a shave."
The foreman takes the bear to his supervisor, the manager. The manager, likewise thinks the bear is a "silly man who needs a shave." The manager takes the bear to the vice president who also calls the bear a "silly man who needs a shave." And this scenario continues up the line to first vice president to president. Every one tells the bear he is a "silly man who needs a shave."
The president, however, sets out to prove to the bear that he is a "silly man ....."
The bear is taken to the zoo. The bears in the zoo say that he can't be a bear because he isn't like them. He's outside the bars and not inside like they are; therefore he's a "silly man...."
Lastly, the bear is taken to the circus. The bears in the circus say that he can't be a bear because he isn't like them. He's sitting in the stands and not performing; therefore he's a "silly man..."
Soon the bear is brought back to the factory to work. He works just like all the other men. He is acting just like the other men, so he has come to the decision that he must have been deluded. He really is just a silly man who needs a shave.
The factory shuts down for a month and everyone takes a vacation. All the men leave and go to their homes. The bear is left alone. He wonders where his home is. All alone, he has a lot to think about. When it starts snowing, he realizes that not only is he very cold and wet, he's very sleepy. He thinks that if he were a bear, he would be hibernating, now. Maybe, he thinks, that he was right in the first place. He is a bear. Cold, wet, and very tired, the bear finds a cave and burrows down deep down inside the bowels of the cave. As he drifts off to sleep, he has made a conscious decision that he definitely is a bear.
What does this story mean to you? To us, it was the impetus of a very lively discussion. Some of my cloistered brothers have very poignant stories. Everyone has felt peer pressure. Everyone has been judged and been judgemental, themselves. This story was a great ice breaker.