Want to die in style? Go fight a bear?

By James Conway

Recently I had the privilege of turning 18 and officially becoming an adult. My life will soon be filled with the joys of a nagging wife, annoying children, and a dead-end job working for a moron boss. I will pay bills and taxes, and then I will retire on what little savings I have left and hope to enjoy my feeble years in relative comfort and quiet. I’m just brimming with excitement, and I can’t wait to become an adult. Of course I’m mostly being sarcastic; yet reflecting on how fast my life has gone has forced me to confront my mortality.

So I am now pleased to announce that when I turn 80 I intend to engage in a life-and-death struggle with a bear and that this is the only way I can truly go out with style and fully confront my mortality.

You are probably wondering why I chose the arbitrary age of 80. Well frankly, it’s the best age to go. The average lifespan of a male in good health is 75, so reaching 80 isn’t a huge stretch. When you’re 80 you don’t have a lot of years left, your friends and relatives are dead or dying, you get sick easily, and your junk just doesn’t work like it used to.

Also, by the year 2068 there will be a lot of cool futuristic technologies that will befuddle and confuse me, and even if I do figure them out, the finer things in life will be reserved for the young. Only the young will enjoy the merits of the Playstation 20 full-body reality simulator, the windsurfing vacations on a terraformed Mars, and the inevitable fully functional robotic “companions” of tomorrow. As an old man, these things would mean nothing to me, in fact I will probably be bitterly reminiscing about how wonderful Facebook, Snakes on a Plane, and Halo were in my own youth. And my grandchildren will either dismiss me as insane (“Snakes on a what, Grandpa?”) or eagerly await my demise so they can inherit my immense fortune (assuming I don’t sell my children to the University of Chicago to pay off my student loans). Eighty-year-olds can’t party, dance, or have fun, and they get treated like little kids by everyone. Frankly, being 80 sucks and there’s really no reason to go on living when you’ve reached that point.

So we’ve established that getting that old sucks, but why fight a bear?

Well, when most old people die, they die in pretty undistinguished ways. Their drool rolls off their tongue and chokes them, a hapless attendant or greedy relative “accidentally” pulls the plug to the life-support machine, or they die peacefully in their sleep, which is incredibly dull. Fighting a bear will take your death off the back page of the obituaries and put it right onto the front page; fighting a bear will test every ounce of strength, dexterity, and manhood your withered body has left. Fighting a bear is what the Indians used to do when they got old (all right, I completely made that up, but that’s what Brad Pitt did in a movie once) and everyone loves and respects Native American culture. Also, bears are some of the most fierce creatures you could fight—it would be a feat to defeat one as a young, proud man, and it would be an even harder thing to do when you’re old. And I mean, lets face it, everyone secretly wants to fight a bear.

Unlike fighting a shark or an alligator, it requires no swimming skills; unlike fighting a tiger or a lion, it requires no travel: Bears are a nuisance at best and a menace to society at worst—respected journalist Stephen Colbert once called them, “the most dangerous threat to America”: If any creature deserves to be fought, it’s a bear. And if anyone can fight a bear, it’s an 80-year-old; as a 25-year-old, in your prime, fighting a bear wouldn’t be practical since a young life would be unduly extinguished if you lost. But fighting a bear when you’re 80 is a win-win proposition! If you lose, it’s a great way to go, and if you win, you’d have a great story to tell the grandkids. You’d become a celebrity, and you might even be able to pick up chicks that aren’t eligible for retirement benefits yet, and that in itself is something worth fighting for.