Pooh is a Bear of Very Little Brain so he is the perfect embodiment of Taoism—at least in Benjamin Hoff’s charming The Tao of Pooh he is. Hoff borrows freely from A. A. Milne to illustrate basic precepts of Lao-tse and concepts like Wu Wei and P’u. The crew in the Hundred Acre Woods is a living laboratory (fictionally speaking) for the examination of the Tao and how you might recognize it or even practice it in your own life. I read an old paperback but the book and its sequel, The Te of Piglet, have been reissued as a boxed set.
Pooh is pretty much ego-free and has no pretensions of impressive intellect or prodigious talent. He lives in the moment, regrets nothing, casts no blame and is unendingly cheerful or, in the event of a shortage of honey, admirably resilient. His mind does not get in the way of his life—a state of advanced spirituality to aspire to. Piglet, who hangs out a lot with the master, comes in a close second, although sometimes his nerves get the best of him. But Piglet can be very Brave and quite selfless on occasion, which is a kind of leading with the heart that syncs with the Tao. Rabbit and Owl are hopeless and Eyeore is just a gloomy donkey who can go with the flow—especially when he gets Bounced by a Tigger and falls in the river–but will generally drift to the dark side of things.
Hoff spends some pages critiquing the Bisy Backson, a section of the text that eerily captures the frenetic mindset of the Western capitalist. From Christopher Robin, a note:
From Benjamin Hoff, a commentary:
You see them almost everywhere you go, it seems. On practically any sunny sort of day, you can see the Backsons stampeding through the park, making all kinds of loud Breathing Noises. Perhaps you are enjoying a picnic on the grass when you suddenly look up to find that one or two of them just ran over your lunch…The Bisy Backson is always On The Run, it seems…Let’s put it this way: if you want to be healthy, relaxed, and contented, just watch what a Bisy Backson does and then do the opposite.
The primer is full of little gems that set out the Tao in manageable bits and glints. Pooh is an effortless example of how to arrange your priorities and live in the Now. He likes nothing better than to visit Christopher Robin with Piglet right about snack time on “a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.” Hoff’s point is that you can study serious tomes of deep philosophical teachings about how to live your life. Or you can just take a page from The House at Pooh Corner and borrow Pooh’s artless wisdom.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.
Tao of Pooh and Te of Piglet Boxed Set Benjamin Hoff | Penguin 1982