“I don’t have to run faster than the bear…
I just have to run faster than you.”
While the above is not the actual quote,* it is how I first heard it. You’ve might have heard some version of it as well. And through its dark humour it speaks with a kind of seemingly unexplainable profoundness.
Whether there’s any truth to it in the physical realm (whether you live someplace where there are bears or not), the thing is that is does point to how we often relate to certain aspects of our life or of our behaviour. Especially when it comes to the realms of morality or ethics. It is quite easy to stop examining ourselves about whether we are living up to our ideals who we profess ourselves to be – including whether we’re being productive or unproductive, whether we are creating possibility or causing harm and hurt, whether we are working towards our common desires or running roughshod over others – and instead begin comparing ourselves to others, with one single metric. To put in the same context as the above:
“… I just have to be better than you.”
The game is no longer mindfulness, or self examination, or creation, or self-actualization. That all gets short-circuited by the easy way out of comparison. It’s a way to assuage our guilt. Comparison smooths over the dissonance and discomfort that comes from stepping over our authentic self and its morals, ethics, ideals, values, and any of the bits that run counter to who we say we are.**
And it does a great job of it! Inside the Bear game (aka “not as bad as…” game) we don’t gain peace, but it does move aside the confusion and unease and ache, at least temporarily.
But it will only ever be temporary. Because we’ve got a break in our word, and a break in our world between our authentic self and how we’re being and behaving.
When we recognize the Bear game, we can put it aside. We can let ourselves see those disconnects so that we can do something about them. We can take action, do the work, create new clearings to step in to, and align ourselves with who we truly want to be. We gain access to peace of mind, wonder, connection, and fulfillment, while also creating spaces where we can all flourish.
* The original, by Jim Butcher, is not presented as a punchline to a joke, being much more straightforward: “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.” It was meant as encouragement towards perseverance (specifically in becoming a writer) as well as a good reminder to stop focusing on our imperfections and that we don’t need to be perfect or the ultimate best in the world at something to enjoy fulfillment and success. However, the version I’ve got stuck in my head, with its more pointed nature, is more perfect for delving into the inquiry at hand…
** Unless, of course, who you say you are is a jerk or tyrant or conniver or schemer or the like… in which case, there’s a different conversation that needs to be had to transform that!