The Wisdom of Polar Bears

Every once in a while, one comes across an article so inspiring, that their life will never be the same again.

This is not that article.  But it is bound to put a wee smile on your face nonetheless.  It did that to me when I saw someone had posted it on a board at work.  To whomever posted this, I salute you.

Word has it that it was originally written for The New Yorker in 2002, but unfortunately I was not able to find the original online.  Thank goodness it’s floating around from other sources…

Polar Bear Workout

It is not recommended to use a polar bear as a workout partner.

 I present to you…


For me, wisdom came not at the top of the graduate-school mountain nor buried in the Sunday-school sandpile.  For me, wisdom arrived during a visit to the home of our trusted friend the polar bear.  Actually, I suppose “trusted friend” is something of a misnomer, because last year I had my arms brutally ripped from my torso by a fifteen-hundred-pound Norwegian polar bear.  How and why this happened is an interesting story.  For now, though, let’s take a look at some fun lessons about our good friend Ursus maritimus, the polar bear.  Here’s what I learned:

—Share everything.  You might be thinking, Really?  Even with polar bears?  Yes, share especially with polar bears.  Actually, the word “share” does not exist in a polar bear’s vocabulary, which consists of only about three hundred words.  Give everything you have to a polar bear and do not expect him to share it.  It did not occur to the polar bear who took my arms from me to share them in any way afterward.

—Polar bears are meticulous about personal cleanliness.  A typical polar bear will feast for about twenty to thirty minutes, then leave to wash off in the ocean or an available pool of water.  The polar bear who feasted on my arms did exactly this, leaving to scrub up in a nearby lake.  Good hygiene is fundamental.

—In nearly all instances where a human has been attacked by a polar bear, the animal has been undernourished or was provoked.  In my case, the bear was plump but deranged.  Consequently, my attacker bear was spared the execution that typically follows an assault.  My proposal—that my polar bear have his arms ripped off by a larger polar bear—was rejected by the authorities.  No lesson here, I guess.

—The town of Churchill, Manitoba, is known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.”  According to legend, when a bear ambled into the Royal Canadian Legion hall in Churchill, in 1894, the club steward shouted, “You’re not a member! Get out!,” and the bear did.  This story is almost certainly fictitious.  During the first ten minutes that a polar bear was removing my arms from my body, I repeatedly shouted, “Stop!,” “Get away from me!,” and “Please—oh, my God, this polar bear is going to rip my arms off!,” but the animal was unfazed.  The lesson in this is that you can’t believe everything you hear.

—Beware of blame-shifting.  The authorities speculated that the nasty scene may have begun when I grabbed onto the polar bear’s fur.  At first, I thought, Gee, maybe that’s right—I must have done something to get him so sore.  But now I reject this suggestion.  Why would I grab his fur?

—Things change.  As a child, I used to delight in early-morning “polar-bear swims” at my summer camp.  Now I don’t even feel like swimming anymore, because I have no arms.

—Summing up:  1. Do not run from a polar bear.  2. Do not fight back.  3. Don’t just stand there.  Whatever you do, it will teach you a lesson.

—Never judge a book by its cover.  Polar bears hate this.

—When a male polar bear and a human are face to face, there occurs a brief kind of magic: an intense, visceral connection between man and beast whose poignancy and import cannot be expressed in mere words.  Then he rips your arms off.