Sticking Your Finger In A Bear’s Eye: Why We Don’t Believe People When They Talk About Bad Things

Maine Man Fends Off Bear Attack To Save His Puppy

This past week a guy who lives sort of near me fought off a bear who attacked his puppy.

The link is here, but if you don’t want to click through, the man stopped on the side of one of our bigger roads (for Maine) so that his puppy could go to the bathroom. It was an urgent dog need.

The dog owner was zoning out, gazing a different way. Maybe the puppy needed privacy. Scotty was like that. He couldn’t do his doggy business if you watched.  Plus, honestly, why watch?

 

Back to the story…. This guy and his puppy are on the side of the road. Man is admiring vista. Dog is doing dog business.

But then the leash was yanked out of this guy’s hand. He turned and a bear was attacking his puppy, so he did what any dog lover would do. He attacked the bear and stuck his finger in the bear’s eye. The bear ran off. The puppy went to the vet and should be okay.

The newspaper article spent a lot of time corroborating his story. They obviously assumed people wouldn’t think it was true. But the Maine wardens found a bear den close by the site. The vet confirmed that the dog had puncture wounds

But it made me wonder: 

Why do we have such a hard time believing people when they have experiences outside our own experience?

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One Of My Own Bear Encounters:

When my daughter Em was little, I had her in the LL Bean backpack carrier – because Maine and LL Bean is basically required gear – and we were tromping through the woods in our backyard when we came around a curve on the ATV trail and smelled this rank skunk odor and saw a bear.

Em said, “BIG DOGGIE! BIG BIG DOGGIE! Pet it?”

She liked dogs.

And I was like, “Shh…. baby. That’s a bear.”

The bear looked at me. I looked at the bear and we backed up and then booked it home where we promptly told the story and we were promptly greeted with…

“Seriously?”

And…

“Yeah, right.”

And…

“You did not see a bear.”

There have been so many time in my life that I’ve told stories of my experiences and been greeted with those phrases, with disbelief.

And it obviously isn’t a phenomenon isolated to me.

Here’s the thing About Experience and Truth: 

Our experience is never the only experience.

Our reality isn’t always other people’s realities.

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Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Just because what happened doesn’t connect with your image of the people involved or even how the world works doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

None of us are all-knowing.

We are not omniscient gods who understand and have knowledge of all things. Sometimes we can’t even remember where we put our car keys or school id. How are we supposed to know the truth of other people’s experiences?

One of my friends once told a story on his Facebook page about a racist thing that happened to him and immediately people said, “You read the interaction wrong. There was probably another reason for that happening.”

No.

Just no.

When we were writing my dad’s obituary, I wrote that he was a truck driver, but my siblings said, “No. He was a mechanic.”

Because I am 14 years younger than my closest sibling, I only knew Dad as a trucker. Since my older siblings were gone from home and out in their own lives when that transition happened, they defined him as a mechanic. Same dad. Same family. Different perceptions. If that can happen within such a closed sphere, imagine what happens in the bigger world.

And the other thing is that none of us are perfect. People we love will do things that are wrong. We will do things that are wrong when it comes to things like understanding other people’s experiences, oppression, bigotry.   How we face these things, what we do, it’s part of what defines us.

We need to trust that our experience isn’t the only experience of anything or anyone out there, that our perception isn’t the only perception. Even when we write stories, we can’t have every single character react and think exactly the same way we do. If we did our readers would throw the book away.

This also applies to life.

If something as simple as a bear encounter has to be enthusiastically proven to be believed, then something is wrong with our society. Something deep.

Let’s start to figure out how to fix that, fix it on multiple levels, the levels of discrimination in all forms, but also in just easy simple truths. Let’s tell our truths and believe others’ truths, too, even when they are uncomfortable, even when they make us feel scared or guilty or conflicted or sad or envious or angry.

We don’t get to define other people’s realities or experiences. Life is not fiction. It’s stranger than that.

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Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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