Other Stories

Thinking outside the box

One day a little teddy bear was sitting by a lake… quietly watching what was going on…. just enjoying being relaxed and calm… the little bear had one or two good friends among the birds and the other animals… but never really felt part of it…. like an outsider…. and didn’t know why…. whenever a big important animal came along … the little bear got flustered or embarrassed or said the wrong thing…. never knew what to do.
And the bear was thinking about this when a voice said “What would you like things to be like?” The bear looked around startled… and saw a cat with big floppy ears sitting on a low box, watching, the way cats do.
“Who are you?” said the bear.
“That’s not important”, said the cat with the large ears. “Do you know who you are? That’s what’s important”.
“How did you get here?”
“That’s not important, either.” the cat said, smugly, and began to nibble a tadpole.
“That’s a funny looking box you’re sitting on.” said the bear, at length.
“Oh this – it’s not a box, it’s a book, actually.”
The bear looked at the book for a while and said “It doesn’t look very comfortable. ”
“It’s not meant to be comfortable. It’s meant to let you do what you want.”
“Wow” said the bear, impressed. “Anything you want?”
“And would it let me do anything I want?” asked the bear, hopefully.
“Sure,” said the cat, who was now deep in the weeds at the edge of the water searching for another tadpole “Just imagine what you want and the book will open at the right page.”
The bear thought and thought… and looked hard at the book over there… there was something the bear had always wanted to do…. but never dared… it wasn’t possible, was it?…. or was it?… or maybe not… and while the bear’s woolly mind was busy wondering if the book might… could… the book suddenly flipped open.
“Ah…” said the cat through a mouth full of goldfish “I see you’ve managed to get it working.”
“But I’m not sure what to do next.” said the bear, nervously.
“Simple. Just look at the instructions, and apply them.”
The bear peered at the book, and sure enough, there were the exact instructions needed. The bear was elated. It was so simple. Just do as the book says. It was obvious what to do. So with a quick “Thanks, whoever you are!” the bear was off down the path to try it out.
And just a few steps down the path, a family of ducks turned up, complaining noisily about missing goldfish. And then all twelve baby ducks started crying and carrying on and in all the fuss and noise the bear forgot the instructions.
So the bear turned back and found the cat lying down contentedly scratching his belly with a stick. And the book was closed.
“What do I do now?” wailed the bear.
“Why not think of something else you would like to do?” said the cat.
So the bear thought and thought, and was busy trying to decide whether to ask about this thing or that thing, when the book popped open on its own. Surprised, the bear went over and peered into it, and again the exact instructions were right there…. how to do an even more important thing the bear needed.
Quick as flash the bear set off again down the path…. determined to ignore all distractions… bustling along as fast as possible… and tripped over a tree root. “Oh dash and pepperpots!” said the bear. “Why does this always happen to me? Why isn’t the path kept clear the way it’s supposed to be…” and going over those same old complaints soon drove the instructions clear out of that silly bear’s head.
“Back again?” said the cat, busy carving a flute out a fish bone. “Well, you should know how it works by now. You don’t need me to tell you. ” and left the bear to get on with it, blowing a few experimental notes on the flute all the while.
The bear had hardly begun to think when the book flipped open again, so hard that it spun right round before settling back on the ground. “Goodness, I am getting good at this.” thought the bear and in a moment was scurrying down the path again, pushing leaves aside and being very, very careful about roots. The bear was making good progress, getting on towards doing the most important thing of all….when it began to rain…. and that silly bear started to think about getting home and worrying if the windows were left open or not…. and before long was trudging back up the path again, dejected and miserable and now wet as well.
The bear found the cat settled comfortably in front of a cozy fire under a little shelter and trying out a new tune on the flute. And as the tune faded away… a few damp notes still hanging in the air… the cat looked over, took a long lazy stretch, and said…
“You know, I wonder if maybe you are making an assumption here?”
And the bear thought about it, and realised the cat was right.

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