Grizzly bears and COVID-19, the Coronavirus. That’s a helluva scary combination. But they have more in common than they might seem, because both cause a lot of fear. Here’s a cool story about a grizzly attack that illustrates where we are as a society as we watch COVID-19 close in around us. You can check out the video below or just keep reading.
The Afognak Bear Attack
In October 2017, Steven Rinella, Remi Warren, Janis Putelis, and members of The Meateater film crew went to Afognak Island in Alaska to film an elk hunt. Afognak is known for huge Roosevelt Elk, but also for huge brown bears (all grizzlies are brown bears, not all grizzlies are brown bears). Despite difficult conditions, the hunt was a success.
Rinella killed a nice Roosevelt Elk. The crew gutted and butchered the elk, and hung part of the meat in a tree, taking care to hang it high enough and far enough away from the base that brown bears wouldn’t be able to get to it. They then packed part of the meat back to camp.
They got up the next morning and hiked back to the meat tree to recover the rest of the meat. They took care to be very loud coming in to the tree in order to ward off any bears that might have claimed the kill. They found very little sign that bear had been in the area.
After a long hike, they decided to have some coffee and sandwiches before loading up their packs and hauling it back to camp. Each man had some type of bear deterrent with him, whether bear spray or a pistol. The problem was that their deterrents were with their packs.
During the process of making sandwiches and coffee, each man sat down near someone else’s pack, not within reach of his own deterrent. As they were huddled around eating and drinking coffee, an 11-foot brown bear came charging out of the woods around them.
Each man’s response was different. Some dodged, Janis hit the bear with a trekking pole, Remi did “a football juke move”, and a member of the film crew (Dirt Myth) ended up taking a short ride on the bear’s back (no shit). But, beyond a sprained ankle, no one was hurt. But they were all impacted.
When he saw the bear, Rinella’s thought was that “someone is going to get killed or maimed and everything in life is going to be different from this point forward.” But for others, the worst part was not the actual attack, it was the threat of a second attack.
After the bear’s initial charge, the team counted off and circled up with their deterrents in hand. The bear circled around and made multiple bluff charges where it would come full speed through the woods towards the team, but turning before it actually reached them.
Keep in mind that this happened in the dark. The team members were circled up, listening to this ginormus predator charging towards them, but being unable to see it to know exactly where it was coming from – they only knew it was close and closing fast. The fear was palpable.
COVID-19 – The Bear’s Second Charge
And that, friends, is where we find ourselves today. We have virus that’s out there. We can’t see it, but it’s closing in on us. New cases are being confirmed each day. And we know many more will be confirmed tomorrow. The death toll is rising each day. Will it be us? Our family? A friend?
Businesses are closing and being forced to close. People are being laid off or fired. Rent is coming due. Mortgages are coming due. Income is drying up. Savings may or may not exist. Financial despair seems to be closing in – at all levels, whether owner, boss, or employee. And all the while many people are alone and isolated. For our generation, these are the times that try men’s souls.
Our Response: Courage and Calm
So the question becomes, will you crack?
- Will you succumb to fear?
- Will you allow yourself to fall into depression or anxiety that cripples you?
- Will you give up?
- Will you force someone to save you?
Or will you strengthen your resolve?
- Will you determine to survive?
- Will you determine to be a light in the midst of darkness?
- Will you bring hope to those around you?
- Will you be their rock?
- Will you be the steady hand and comforting voice that is needed?
It is rare these days to have clear opportunities to express courage. Men, now is your chance. You were born for this. Take advantage. Be a rock for your family and your community.
In his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, wartime journalist and author Sebastian Junger asked: “How does one become a man in a world that doesn’t require courage?” It’s a question that rarely has a clear answer in our day. But now we have an answer. In the midst of this COVID-19 panic, man rises to the occasion. He leads despite fear. He spreads calm.
As former Navy SEAL Commander Rorke Denver is fond of saying: “Calm is contagious”.
Calm wards off fear. It stops the spread of panic. That’s what a leader does in these times. That’s what you must do for your family, your friends, and your employees during this time. That’s how you rise to the occasion and show courage.
So here’s the problem: Most of us are not trained for this. Society has trained us to operate in a system where everything is comfortable and convenient. And that system is at a standstill right now.
- Will you up your training?
- Will you identify where your family is vulnerable and dependent?
- Will you forge deeper connections with others?
- Will you shore up your weaknesses so that you’re stronger for others?
- Will you develop more skills, skills that allow you to thrive beyond your current occupation, skills that are valuable if the supply chain goes down?
Here’s my hope about the current situation: that this virus is going to be highly contagious, but with a low mortality rate. Once we see widespread testing, I expect to see high levels of infection, but low rates of death.
In other words, I remain hopeful that we got lucky this time. I think this virus is showing us our vulnerabilities, both as people and as a society. Leave the societal issues for another day. For today, focus on you.
Where must you get better as a man? The next virus or war or global incident may not be so gentle.
Will you be ready? I hope that you will. That’s the man’s life. Let’s build it. Calmly. Without panic. Despite fear. Godspeed.
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