Talk it over Counselling and Psychotherapy, where you do the talking in a personal and safe environment. Talk it over - Counselling and Psychotherapy

"The Zoo" is a story about things left roaming unchecked in our unconscious minds. It talks about living in what is real instead of living in what we would like to be real or fear might be real, and using the power the "Creator of Old" gives us in our inmost being to face tough stuff in our lives. Facing truth in our unconscious mind needs to be done with courage but also very carefully. The defenses that tend to keep us from doing this are there often for good reasons, but as Jesus said, "The truth will set you free". A skilled psychotherapist can help you navigate these difficult waters. There is of course also much more in this story for you to discover.

The zoo

“The zoo is open!” “Come visit!”, shouts the zoo keeper, “No tickets needed!”, “Come see the bear!”

It was a village unlike all others in the tribe. This village had a zoo. It was a foreign concept, which one of the villagers had picked up on one of his travels to a far away land. In this village the zoo however only had one cage, a bear cage. The people from the village and many villages around came to visit the zoo, to see the bear and gloat over it.

Years earlier a big ferocious bear had roamed the forests in the valley and villagers had lost their lives. So a big bear hunt was called and everyone armed with sticks and clubs went out to find the bear and kill it. But the beast was of the illusive kind and hunt after hunt was futile. Every time the people returned without the bear and the next time someone went missing a new bear hunt was called.

Then one day one of the warriors told the villagers to build a big cage, like they had in the zoos in the far away lands and he would capture the bear by the time the cage was built and they would have a zoo and no more bear problems. And so the cage was built. And by the time it was finished, he delivered the bear into it, at night when everybody was asleep. He was a skillful warrior, with night vision like that of an owl.

The villagers were delighted and the warrior was promoted to the status of “great warrior”. He had enjoyed the privileges of his status ever since that day. He gained much wealth and respect and had many sons, all of whom became warriors, but there was none as great as he.

The news of the zoo spread among the other villages and tribes and many people came to visit the village to see the bear and to stand in awe. The bear however was quite shy and as illusive as he had been right from the start. With the throngs of people queuing up to see him, no-one ever got a good view. The people used to say to each other, “Look, there he is, in the corner behind that rock, that’s him, look, he moved”. Then everyone else said, “Yes, that’s him alright” and they all marveled and sighed with relief and cheered the great warrior. No-one ever doubted that the bear was really there. Everyone knew he was. Ever since the great warrior had caught the bear, the marauding had ceased and the village had lived in peace. On top of that, because of the zoo, trading and friendly relations had opened up with many of the villages and tribes around them and they experienced a level of prosperity they had never had before. Moreover, they would give the zookeeper meat and vegetables every day for the bear and these got eaten by the bear every night.

There was one person however who kept on causing a problem. He was one of the village’s wise men. He kept on uttering mysterious riddles and rhymes that seemed to betray that all was not well. He unsettled the people with his questions and prophecies and they told him in no uncertain way to keep silent, however he could not. One day he wrote a poem in the sand in the village square. It read:

The bear is on the loose, the bear is on the loose!
'We need more strength, we need more peace’
The bear is on the loose, go fight him if you choose.

The bear is fierce, the bear is fierce
'We need more strength, we need more peace’
The bear is fierce, his bite will pierce

The mothers cry, the mothers cry
'We need more strength, we need more peace’
The mothers cry, their children die,but why?

Our courage frozen, our courage frozen
'We need more strength, we need more peace’
With courage frozen, where are the chosen?

Go fight him if you choose, go fight him if you choose
We have the strength, we have the peace
The bear is on the loose, go fight him if you choose.

The people were furious that he dared frighten the children like that and mock the great warrior, so they banished him. From that time he led a lonely existence, some distance away from the village in between the trees on top of the hill.

Years later things changed in the village. The people had forgotten what had happened. They forgot that bears could ever pose a danger. They were living in prosperity and peace and no-one realised how dependent they really still were on nature and that when nature decided to turn the tide, that there was little they could do about it.

One day the news broke that a girl had gone missing. There was much speculation of what might have happened. Some of the villagers thought that someone may have killed her and hidden the body. There was suspicion among the people and an eerie fear settled on them. Others thought that someone from another tribe might have abducted her.

Nothing happened for a few weeks and then another child went missing. The people noticed that the same man from the Kulu tribe had been in the village that day, and they thought they had found their suspect. A delegation was sent to the tribe to demand them to hand the man over, but they refused. Accusations and threats were made and trade between them stopped. Other tribes heard about it and also stopped trading with the village.

Three days later a young man went missing, some time later someone else. People said a villager had heard growls from the forest at night, but others said that was impossible, because the bear was in the cage. He must have heard wrong. “It’s because of your worries”, people said to the one who told them he had heard it with his own ears.

Then someone said that there was a secret entrance somewhere in the forest into the next life. Many went looking for it and some didn’t come back. There was discussion among the people that it was really wrong and very selfish for anyone to go looking for this secret entrance and leave their loved ones and everyone else behind. So they stopped going into the forest to look for it and it was quiet for a while.

But then one day the son of the chief went missing. His name was Irja. He was the eldest. He was the one who would succeed his father one day. The chief pretended that everything was ok for a while and said that his son had gone on a hunting trip and that he was a strong young man who was wise and that nothing could happen to him. But secretly the chief consulted his wise men. They all came up with different answers and explanations that didn’t make sense, because none of them dared to suggest that maybe there was a bear out there in the forest. They knew the old wise man on the hill had been exiled when he had spoken up about the danger and they were not going to make the same mistake.

After a week it got too much for the chief and he called in the banished wise man from up the hill. He told him that he would give him gold and silver and as many wives as he wanted, if only he could tell him what had happened to his son and what to do. The wise man however said to him,

I cannot reveal to you the answer you are looking for, because you already know it in your heart. Go into the quietest place in the forest and the answer will meet you loud and clear. You must go to the deepest place in your heart where for an age and a half you have hidden all truth that was too difficult to face. You must become like a fearless warrior and look the truth into the eye. There you will find your son in your heart and you will hear him speak of his life like you never have before. Then you will know where he is hid and whether he is still alive.”

With that he turned around and started back to his home on the hill. The chief called after him and said, “Wait, you must receive your reward!” But the wise man kept moving, undisturbed by the pull of such a great temptation. He knew that if he accepted the reward, his life would become as futile as that of the great warrior, who, like the chief had never stared the truth into the eye.

By that time the news had spread that Irja had gone missing and that he not gone on a great hunting trip, but that he was just simply... missing. The people found out that none of the wise men had had any answers and that the banished wise man had been called in and that he had given the chief another one of his riddles. Fear traveled into the people’s hearts, like a thick dark fog. The people seemed paralysed. No-one knew what to do but everyone knew that someone must do something. All eyes turned to the chief and the great warrior, so the chief invited the great warrior in for a secret meeting with his wise men.

Underneath the chief had known all along that the bear had never been caught, that the bear had never been in the cage. It had all been an idea the great warrior had come up with to settle down the people's fears and increase the prosperity of the village. And it had worked very well for a good while. But now it all started to crumble. They had to come up with a clever plan, and that they did.

The next morning the chief announced that he had done what the old wise man from up the hill had told him. He said how he had gone into the quietest part of the forest and that there the answer had come to him. He said that the angels had descended and given him wisdom. He said that the bear in the cage was now old and tame and that the great warrior could go into the cage and put a harness on it. He said the angels had told him that a second bear had come into the region and that this second bear explained the recent disappearances. He said they must use the old bear to track down the second bear and capture it. He made an eloquent speech, encouraging the villagers all to take great courage and to follow the example of the great warrior who had single handedly captured the ferocious bear years before. Everybody cheered.

The great warrior went into the cage with the harness to be put on the bear. A minute passed as the great warrior went to get the old bear from behind the rock. Great tension cut the air. Then there was a deep wail, “The bear is on the loose, the bear is on the loose!”, just like in the riddle that the wise man had written so many years ago, the riddle that children had been using in their games and chants, almost in a mocking way.

As the great warrior came out of the cage, there was a hush and as the great warrior began to speak, wanting to explain that the old wise man must have opened the door of the cage the day before when he was in the village. He got cut short by the zoo keeper, who yelled out, “There’s never been a bear in that cage!” “The brown fur you saw in the cage behind the rock were the brown coleus plants moving in the wind.” “The meat and herbs all went to the great warrior and his large family.”

For a moment the people were stunned. Then they were filled with rage and wanted to kill the great warrior. But the zookeeper shouted, “The bear is on the loose, let’s deal with that first.” So all the villagers, still charged with rage, ran into the forest and went to hunt for the bear. The great warrior also left and the chief was left there standing all by himself. As he contemplated what to do now, he decided the best thing to do would be to really go and do what the wise man up the hill had said, so the chief also moved into the forest, but in a different direction than the rest of the people.

Soon the chief found himself in the quietest part of the forest. It was darkish and water was dripping off the leaves. There were creatures off all sizes and shapes that he had never seen in his life. The creatures started closing in on him. Most of them looked fierce and intimidating. It was as if he was in a different universe. He did not feel at ease at all, but he knew he must go through this will he ever see his son again. He remembered the words of the wise man.

A creature much bigger than him suddenly launched at him. In the split second that this took, the chief remembered other words that the wise man had spoken, years ago, when he first had become chief.

You must overcome all that looks overpowering and intimidating with the gift of the power of the Creator of Old, which you have received today to fulfill your duties as chief of this village.”

It was a very long time since he had used this power, but now the chief remembered how true the words of the wise man had always been. He felt ashamed that he had allowed him to get banished.

There was a scuffle between the chief and the creature. The chief overcame it with ease. The power still worked. He did likewise with all the other creatures and then it was really quiet.

The chief gathered his thoughts. His memories traveled to the times when he had played with Irja in this part of the forest and he remembered many of the things they had talked about, and remembered many of the places they had gone to, to explore and to hunt. And then it came like a flash: The cave near the creek. “Dad you’ll find me near the cave near the creek.” When he was 12 his son had said this out of the blue. “Dad you’ll find me near the cave near the creek.” He'd kept on repeating it as if his life depended on it, but the chief had never understood what he had meant by it. But now he did!

He rushed to the creek and followed it upstream till he got to the cave. He panted. He called out “Irja, Irja!” “Irja, Irja!” Instead of the voice of his son he heard a growl which pulled his gaze straight ahead. The bear! Their eyes met. The bear’s eyes set only on one intent: to capture and devour the chief. The chief jumped backwards. His heart was racing. His mind was focused. He knew he must face this as a man. His anger was aroused and he grabbed a big stick. Then he yelled his loudest and leaped towards the bear who was about five times his weight.

Somewhere it flashed through his mind that others might hear the scuffle and come to join the fight, but he forgot about the gift of power of the Creator of Old at this crucial moment. The battle was fierce between the beast and him. He was badly injured as claws ripped through his flesh. He was thrown through the air several times. He landed behind a rock. All was quiet for just a second while he thought soon the bear would come to finish him off. But he heard, “Dad, dad!” “Dad!” It couldn’t be! His heart almost stopped. “My son!” Then he heard, “I’ve got the bear.” He struggled to get up. His son was standing there and next to him the bear who was dead. “My son!”, he cried, “My son!” “Irja!” “How did you do that?” “It’s the gift of the power of the Creator of Old.” “If you forget about it, it won’t work.” “If you stuff it away like you did all those years through your lies and pretense, it won’t work.” “But when I was in the cave, a light visited me and said, ‘This is the gift your father doesn’t want anymore. It is now yours.’ And I believed, and it is real.”

At this, the men of the village arrived and saw what had happened. They said they must kill the great warrior for all his lies and for putting them all in grave danger. Many lives had been lost because of his lies and his power games. “He must pay for this with his life.” But Irja said, “No, this is a day of celebration. Tomorrow strip him of his power and privileges, but do not lay a hand on him. He also must still walk a long road of many years and many hardships, so that he too might discover what really makes one a great warrior.”

The chief could see that Irja had not only received the gift of power that once was his, but that he had also received a gift of wisdom. He knew this must be the day on which his son must succeed him as chief, and the villagers agreed.

As they returned to the village, the women came to meet them. They cheered when they saw Irja had been rescued. Everyone was relieved about such a good outcome. Then one of the women said that they had seen a bright light that looked like an angel traveling from the hut of the old wise man, down to the creek and into the forest. They said that later that day they had found the body of the wise man lying in front of his hut, peaceful and with a smile on his face. They said he had a stick still in his hand and close by in the sand he had written,

If you don’t believe it,
If you don’t use it,
If you stuff it all away,
It won’t work.

©2009 Ralph Holwerda


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