The Tao of Pooh

December 24, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

When I was young I was a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh, the series of short stories about a group of animals living in 100 Acre Wood, written by AA Milne for his son, back in the 1920’s.

When I was at university, I discovered a book published in 1982 by Benjamin Hoff that assessed the various characters in the books and suggested that they bore more than a passing resemblance to the ancient Chinese principles of Taoism, a theology that emphasises being who you are, learning from whatever life throws at you and going with the flow rather than fighting against it.

Benjamin Hoff notes that one of the basic principles of Taoism is Pu, or the Uncarved Block, the essence of which is that things in their original state contain their own natural power, power that can easily be lost when that simplicity is challenged, and Pooh, he says not only sounds like, but embodies the epitome of Pu

Each of the characters in the stories reflects a distinct aspect of human nature:

Pooh is famously a bear of little brain, but doesn’t let this worry him. He is easy going and gentle, living from one moment to the next, never worrying about things and allowing them to work themselves out: Piglet is a nervous little animal who worries about everything; Rabbit is brash with a misplaced confidence, Owl represents the wise, academic type, Tigger bounces with endless enthusiasm through everyone else’s adventures and Kanga, the sensible, organised figure works away tirelessly and selflessly in the background. And finally the wonderful Eeyore, the moany old donkey who always assumes that if it can go wrong, it will do…

Hoff wrote a companion volume 10 years later, called the Te of Piglet and I was always impressed by how well in both of these excellent books, EH Shepard’s illustrations seemed to effortlessly explain the ideas Hoff put forward, that people should try to be satisfied with who they are, respond to other people as they find them and treat them with respect. Try reading the books, if you have even the vaguest interest in either people or Winnie the Pooh, I am sure you will enjoy it.

In case you were interested, I have always thought of myself as a Pooh type, laid back, easy going and enthusiastic, an approach that has always worked well for me.

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