GUEST POST – Surly Joe
SYNOPSIS – The Wisdom of Pooh.
Is there such thing as a Western Taoist? Benjamin Hoff says there is, and this Taoist’s favorite food is honey. Through brilliant and witty dialogue with the beloved Pooh-bear and his companions, the author of this smash bestseller explains with ease and aplomb that rather than being a distant and mysterious concept, Taoism is as near and practical to us as our morning breakfast bowl.
Romp through the enchanting world of Winnie-the-Pooh while soaking up invaluable lessons on simplicity and natural living.
The New Year’s Resolutioners are out in full force with the best of intentions, wandering self-consciously through gyms, determined to get in shape and not be intimidated by the machines and the muscle heads. They are frantically downloading new diet plans, determined to lose the weight. They are chewing nicotine gum and applying the patches, determined to kick the cigarettes. But it’s hard. It’s such a struggle. And like every other year, many will have reunited with the old habits by Spring, feeling defeated, or rationalizing why it happened. Again.
So what does any of this have to do with literature and Penny Dreadful?
The Tao of Pooh, a sweetly profound book by Benjamin Hoff, may be able to help.
Written in 1982, it quickly became a bestseller. Its premise is simple and brilliant – use the characters of A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie the Pooh to explain the Eastern philosophy of Taoism, specifically its concept of “Wu Wei”, literally meaning “without doing, causing or making”, but in practicality, “without meddlesome, combative, or egotistical effort”. This is the guiding belief of Winnie the Pooh, but because it’s so natural for him, he doesn’t even know it. He is, according to Hoff, “the most effortless Bear we’ve ever seen”. Never stressed, never frantic, he enjoys his Life. “I don’t do much of anything”, Pooh says, but things sort of just get done.
The other animals of the Forest show the contrast. Owl is the intellectual. He sits for hours thinking, doing nothing. Paralysis by analysis. Eeyore the donkey is clever too, but cynically so, complaining about everything, enjoying nothing. Similar to the New Year’s Resolutioners, it’s all such a Struggle. Piglet is intimidated by everything. He’s too Small and the world is too Big for someone so tiny. And Tigger is impulsive, thinks he can do everything, and usually can’t.
Each character, except for Pooh, illustrates a fight with life in their various ways. But according to Taoism, “the more forcing, the more trouble”. Wu Wei “flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo”. It is effortless so it doesn’t tire.
So what does any of this have to do with the New Year’s Resolutioners?
If the gym is a fight and the diets are boring and the call of the cigarettes is making abstinence seem an impossibility, maybe a step back from the Struggle is necessary. Re-evaluate with Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh, absorb its wisdom and its childlike simplicity. It doesn’t mean give up. The resolutions can be achieved, just achieved in a different, non-combative way. “Tao does not do, but nothing is not done”. Just like Pooh.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Hoff is an author based in the United States. The two books he is proud of are The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. Hoff has an essay online:
http://www.benjaminhoffauthor.com/ This is the only website he has officially endorsed or been involved with.