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Once upon a time, there was a bear that lived in a forest. Being a smart bear, he knew that when the leaves fell and the geese flew west it was time to go into a cave and hibernate. This he did.

While he was hibernating, builders came and built a huge factory right over the bear’s cave so that when he woke up, he found himself standing in the middle of a factory. The foreman came up to him. ‘Hey you,’ he said, ‘get back to work!’

‘But I’m a bear,’ said the bear.

‘No, you’re not,’ replied the foreman. ‘You’re a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.’

‘But I’m a bear,’ said the bear.

So the foreman took the bear to the undermanager, who told him to get back to work.

‘But I’m a bear,’ said the bear.

‘No, you’re not,’ said the undermanager. ‘You’re a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.’

So the bear carried on protesting and was taken up through each level of the hierarchy, where everyone told him that he was a silly man who needed a shave and wore a fur coat. Eventually, as he continued to protest, he was taken to the zoo and to the circus to argue his case with ‘real’ bears. They said, ‘He can’t be a bear because if he were, he would be in this cage with us. He is just a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.’

And so the bear gave up and said to himself, ‘Perhaps I am what they keep telling me I am.’

So he was put to work on a machine and was miserable.

After a long time, the factory closed and all the other workers went elsewhere. The bear was left standing outside in the cold. He looked up. The leaves were blowing off the trees and the wild geese were flying west. Something deep within him told him that it was time to find a nice warm cave and to hibernate.

But I can’t do that,’ he said to himself, ‘because I’m not a bear. I’m just a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.’ So he sat outside in the cold, the snow fell and he began slowly to freeze to death.

Finally, he saw sense. ‘Who cares what it is they tell me I am? If I were a bear, I could go into that cave over there and be happy and warm – and I want to be happy and warm.’ So he went into the cave.

As he happily settled down to hibernate, he realized that he was not a silly man who needed a shave and wore a fur coat – he was a real bear. And he was not a silly bear either!
bear-snowcave

Moral

We all too often believe what other people tell us we are, or ought to be. True happiness lies in discovering for ourselves what we really are – and then being it.

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