Monday, January 9, 2012

"The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff

Paperback edition here.

  • "Life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet."
  • ". . . but, no matter how he may seem to others, especially to those fooled by appearances, Pooh, the Uncarved Block, is able to accomplish what he does because he is simpleminded. As any old Taoist walking out of the woods can tell you, simpleminded does not necessarily mean stupid. It's rather significant that the Taoist ideal is that of the still, calm, reflecting 'mirror-mind' of the Uncarved Block, and it's rather significant that Pooh, rather than the thinkers Rabbit, Owl, or Eeyore, is the true hero of Winnie-the-Pooh."
"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything."

  • "the Eeyore Attitude gets in the way of things like wisdom and happiness, and pretty much prevents any sort of real Accomplishment in life"
  • "It's not that the Eeyore Attitude is necessarily without a certain severe sort of humor . . .
"Hallo Eeyore," they called out cheerfully.
"Ah!" said Eeyore. "Lost your way?"
"We just came to see you," said Piglet. "And to see how your house was. Look, Pooh, it's still standing!"
"I know," said Eeyore. "Very odd. Somebody ought to have come down and pushed it over."
"We wonder whether the wind would blow it down," said Pooh.
"Ah, that's why nobody's bothered, I suppose. I thought perhaps they'd forgotten."
  • "When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun."
  • "From the state of the Uncarved Block comes the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain. Along with that comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work, odd as that may appear to others at times. As Piglet put it in Winnie-the-Pooh, "Pooh hasn't much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right."
"Let's go and see everybody," said Pooh. "Because when you've been walking in the wind for miles, and you suddenly go into somebody's house, and he says, 'Hallo, Pooh, you're just in time for a little smackerel of something,' and you are, then it's what I call a Friendly Day."
Piglet thought that they ought to have a Reason for going to see everybody, like Looking for Small or Organizing and Expotition, if Pooh could think of something.
Pooh could.
"We'll go because it's Thursday," he said, "and we'll go to wish everybody a Very Happy Thursday. Come on, Piglet."
  • "Taoists, who tended to see Confucianist scholars as busy ants spoiling the picnic of life, rushing back and forth to pick up the bits and pieces dropped from above. In the final section of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse wrote, "The wise are not the learned; the learned are not the wise" - an attitude shared by countless Taoists before and since."
  • "From the Taoist point of view, while the scholarly intellect may be useful for analyzing certain things, deeper and broader matters are beyond its limited reach. The Taoist writer Chuang-tse worded it this way: 'A well-frog cannot imagine the ocean, nor can a summer insect conceive of ice. How then can a scholar understand the Tao? He is restricted by his own learning.'
  • ". . . and one sometimes gets the impression that those intimidating words are there to keep us from understanding. That way, the scholars can appear Superior, and will not likely be suspected of Not Knowing Something. After all, from the scholarly point of view, it's practically a crime not to know everything."
  • "Cleverness, after all, has its limitations. Its mechanical judgments and clever remarks tend to prove inaccurate with passing time, because it doesn't look very deeply into things to begin with. . . . The thing that makes someone truly different - unique, in fact, is something that Cleverness cannot really understand."
  • "A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly." Very simple. It's obvious, isn't it? And yet, you'd be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are."
  • "In other words, everything has its own place and function. That applies to people, although many don't seem to realize it, stuck as they are in the wrong job, the wrong marriage, or the wrong house. When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don't belong. One man's food is often another man's poison, and what is glamorous and exciting to some can be a dangerous trap to others."
  • "Unfortunately, some people - who always seem to think they're smarter than fish and birds, somehow - aren't so wise, and end up causing big trouble for themselves and others."
  • "In the story of the Ugly Duckling, when did the ugly Duckling stop feeling Ugly? When he realized that he was a Swan. Each of us has something Special, a Swan of some sort, hidden inside somewhere. But until we recognize that it's there, what can we do but splash around, treading water? The Wise are Who They Are. They work with what they've got and do what they can do."
  • "When you work with the Wu Wei, you have no real accidents. Things may get a little Odd at times, but they work out. You don't have to try very hard to make them work out; you just let them."
  • "An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what's in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to. While the Clear mind listens to a bird singing, the Stuffed-Full-of-Knowledge-and-Cleverness mind wonders what kind of bird is singing. The more Stuffed Up it is, the less it can hear through its own ears and see through its own eyes. Knowledge and Cleverness tend to concern themselves with the wrong sort of things, and a mind confused by Knowledge, Cleverness, and Abstract Ideas tends to go chasing off after things that don't matter, or that don't even exist, instead of seeing, appreciating, and making use of what is right in front of it."
  • "Let's consider Emptiness in general for a moment. What is it about a Taoist landscape painting that seems so refreshing to so many different kinds of people? The Emptiness, the space that's not filled in. What is is about fresh snow, clean air, pure water? Or good music? As Claude Debussy expressed it, 'Music is the space between the notes.'
  • "Many people are afraid of Emptiness, however, because it reminds them of Loneliness. Everything has to be filled in, it seems - appointments books, hillsides, vacant lots - but when all the spaces are filled, the Loneliness really begins. Then the Groups are joined, the Classes are signed up for, and the Gift-to-Yourself items are bought. When the Loneliness starts creeping in the door, the Television Set is turned on to make it go away. But it doesn't go away. So some of us do instead, and after discarding the emptiness of the Big Congested Mess, we discover the fullness of Nothing."
  • In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse wrote," To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day."
  • "Gathering, analyzing, sorting, and storing information - these functions and more the mind can perform so automatically, skillfully, and effortlessly that it makes the most sophisticated computer look like a plastic toy by comparison. But it can do infinitely more. To use the mind as it's all too commonly used, on the kinds of things that it's usually used on, is about as inefficient and inappropriate as using a magic sword to open up a can of beans. The power of the clear mind is beyond description. But it can be attained by anyone who can appreciate and utilize the value of Nothing."
  • "Let's say you get an idea - or, as Pooh would more accurately say, it gets you. Where did it come from? From this something, which came from that something? If you are able to trace it all the way back to its source, you'll discover that it came from Nothing. And the chances are, the greater the idea, the more directly it came from there. 'A stroke if genius! Completely unheard of! A revolutionary new approach!" Practically everyone has gotten some sort of an idea like that sometime, most likely after a sound sleep when everything was so clear and filled with Nothing that an Idea suddenly appeared in it. But we don't have to fall asleep for a few hours for that to happen. We can be awake, instead - completely awake. The process is very natural.
  •         It starts when we are children, helpless but aware of things, enjoying what is around us. Then we reach adolescence, still helpless but trying to at least appear independent. When we outgrow that stage, we become adults - self-sufficient individuals able and mature enough to help others as we have learned to help ourselves.
  •         But the adult is not the highest stage of development. The end of the cycle is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing Child. That is the level known as wisdom. When the Tao Te Ching and other wise books say things like, 'Return to the beginning; become a child again,' that's what they're referring to. Why do the enlightened seem filled with light and happiness, like children? Why do they sometimes even look and talk like children? Because they are. The wise are Children Who Know. Their minds have been emptied of the countless minute somethings of small learning, and filled with the wisdom of the Great Nothing, the Way of the Universe."
  •         "Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, and Eeyore, and a Pooh. For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplishes nothing. If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls us with the voice of a child's mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the forest."

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