I love the Berenstain Bears. I do not say loved, though I have not picked up and leafed through a book in a decade (or two), because love - as physicists say about energy - never really dies, it just transforms. Not all transformations are beautiful, but the Bears, their simple tree house and almost silly moralisms have stuck with me. The news of co-creator Jan Berenstain’s passing has only reminded me that I love them still.
I learned things from the Berenstain Bears I’m not sure the Bible ever quite made clear. The Bible was full of stories, my Sunday school teachers told me, but not particularly good ones, if I was to be honest. There were a few in Joshua, with horns and fighting and some devilish scheming. And, obviously, there was the book of Revelation, which saw me through many, many sermons with its dragons and beasties and general apocalypse. Jimmy, my best friend, was good enough to note that Ezekiel also had some especially exciting bits.
But by and large it was not the exhortations of Moses’ Decalogue - “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not kill” - that stuck with me. Stealing and killing, after all, were pretty dastardly things, and at least a few commandments didn’t make any sense to me at all. I would later come to find these ones rather tricky.