Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Wynne Stevens

Harry's Dilemma

The frozen arctic landscape was cold and inhospitable…bleak and barren to the eyes of a foreigner. But to Harry, an arctic polar bear, the scene before him instilled a sense of belonging and pride. He never tired of watching the endless expanse of pure white snow rising in the distance to form massive hills and ridges. He watched the ever-changing texture of the snow cover, molded and shaped by constantly changing arctic winds.

Harry had lots of time to observe his surroundings as he spent hours every day sitting near that telltale hole in the ice he instinctively knew to be an air hole for the many seals swimming below. He knew they would eventually have to breathe; he waited patiently watching the hole for the first signs of bubbles.

Harry was alone in his quest for dinner. He sometimes spent all day waiting and watching. These lonely times provided many opportunities to reflect on what it meant to be a polar bear. He was taught that from the beginning that polar bears are the biggest and fiercest of all bears…they fear no other creature. He knew his status in the tribe depended on toughness, competitiveness, physical abilities…all the characteristics of animal strength and dominance. Harry aspired to be all those things and more. And he wanted to please his parents, of course, for they were the ones who first inspired him with his greatness. He was also terribly aware of his peers and how he stacked up next to them. And, most of all, he saw that the strongest had their choice of mates. This was very important to an adolescent polar bear.

So Harry became all these things and more. He was naturally big (pushing half a ton!), was pretty athletic. He walked with a bit of a swagger. The girls loved him; his parents were so proud. How fortunate Harry was to be blessed with such genes!

But Harry was troubled…unfulfilled…restless and anxious. He gazed into the frozen horizon and was so taken by the beauty of the light – the way it constantly changed as the sun moved across the sky. Tears of appreciation formed and quickly froze as they fell. He marveled at the thousands of sparkling lights dancing before him, reflections from ice and snow crystals…how they changed, furiously beckoning him to follow them to another world. Harry wondered about that world. He felt inspired…touched by a force he couldn’t understand but somehow knew to be real. And, with these thoughts, he felt ashamed. He was not a real polar bear…he was a fraud. Polar bears should not feel such emotions.

In spite of his shame, Harry began to draw images in the snow. He felt compelled…overpowered, in fact, to express his feeling somehow in a concrete format. Slowly his claw formed a symbol that represented an emotion, an observation…a creative thought. That, in turn, led to another symbol and, before he knew it, Harry had expressed a feeling that was dying to get out…to be shared. Momentarily, Harry felt incredible joy. He had somehow connected with this beautiful force that surrounded him and, in the process, connected with himself. There is so much more to life, he thought with great peace and joy. Quickly Harry obliterated his creation with a wave of his massive paw. No one can see this! Somehow I must contain these feelings, this blissful state for, if I’m discovered, I’ll surely lose the status I’ve worked so hard to acquire.

And so Harry lamented his dilemma – how to maintain the integrity of his polar bear manhood in the personality and soul of a sensitive and creative being. He longed to find other outlets for the passion of life stirring within him but was deathly afraid of being discovered and thought of as being less than polar bear-like.

I was like Harry. My priorities were upside down. For a large part of my life, I ignored the music inside and focused instead on maintaining the manhood image…the shell of protection and deceit. The quest for acceptance was king and I suffered as a result…as did others around me. Next , maybe I’ll take a closer look at Harry’s dilemma and examine how he might break free of the tribal bonds of conformity.

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