Lack of caution

“Play dead! Play dead!”. The screams of Amie Huguenard mingle with the soft sound of rain pattering on the tent and the growls of a bear dragging her boyfriend Timothy from the tent door into the thick vegetation. It is a foggy, closed night. The bear has the boy’s head caught between its jaws. Soon it will devour him. Amie realizes that her advice to Timothy to play dead has not worked. Now she screams at him “hit the bear.” She bravely hits the bear with a frying pan, but to no avail, as the animal moved away from her to eat her boyfriend. After few minutes, the animal came back for her and ate her as well. In 6 minutes, it’s all over and silence reigns again in Katmai National Park in southeastern Alaska, USA.

That was the end of Timothy Treadwell’s life or the “Grizzly Man” as he was called in the documentary film that chronicles his life. Timothy had been camping in the same national park for thirteen seasons. He felt he had mastered the area. He knew the ferocious grizzly bears and felt they were his friends. He began to identify them and even gave them names such as “Cupcake,” “Mr. Chocolate,” “Good bear,” etc. Year by year he had begun to trust more and more in the relationship with these wild animals. He was getting better and better recordings. Playing with their cubs, hunting salmon in the river with them. Timothy was getting closer and closer.

Timothy was always breaking the rules. That year he stayed longer than usual, thus breaking a new rule: fall is the most critical and dangerous season since bears feed at that time to prepare their bodies for winter. In fact, in a letter he sent a few days earlier he had written: “some bears in this area are more aggressive than usual.” Imprudence is a bad advisor. Imprudence may or may not end our bodily life as it ended Timothy’s life, but it also ends our supernatural life, since as St. Thomas Aquinas says: behind every mortal sin there is a lack of prudence.

Prudence has 8 quasi-integral parts, and one of them is “caution.” The lack of caution was one of the biggest mistakes of the “Grizzly Man.” In our actions, the good can be mixed with the bad in such a way that often the good is impeded by evil and evil often appears under the guise of good; consequently, the precaution that makes us choose the good and avoid evils is necessary for true and perfect prudence. 

Timothy realized that there was an evil that he should have avoided: the bears were aggressive because they were hungry. However, the good, which was his passion for being among the bears, was mixed with the bad and caused him to make a mistake that he had to pay for with his life.

That is why cautiousness is very important.  We must be cautious in every action if we do not want to be advised by imprudence rather than prudence. We must see the bad part of our actions so that we always avoid it and in order to be able to do that we must grow in the important virtue of prudence. Without prudence we will always make mistakes.

Daily homily


Get new publications direct to your inbox.