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donderdag 12 juni 2008

Tao of Pooh

About a year and a half ago I saw the title of this book by a writer I had never heard about. But what a title: The Tao of Pooh. Cute, yet intriguing. Since then I wanted to buy it, but I never did. I already own enough books I still need to get through, and the few times I checked in the local English bookstore they would have had to order it so I didn't bother. Last week however I was showing the bookshop Sterling Books to a friend of mine, without the intent of buying anything, and the book was in. Naturally, I couldn't resist. And I'm very I glad I couldn't.

In the Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff explains the basic concepts of Taoism with the character of Winnie-the-Pooh as the perfect example of its principles in action. Pooh exemplifies the idea of the Uncarved Block, or P'u. "The essence of the Uncarved Block is that things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed." Essentially it means that we should listen more to our Inner Nature and see things as they are instead of how we want them to be. This in contrast with Owl who lets his knowledge get in the way for the sake of keeping up an image of wisdom, Eeyore who lets it get in the way of enjoying life, and Rabbit who uses it to sound Clever. The other concept that is touched upon is that of Wu Wei, or Effortless Action (lit. non action or not doing). This means doing things in a natural way, knowing when to act and when not. The traditional metaphor is that of water flowing. A stream of water will not try to move a rock in its path, but will flow around.

As an introduction to Taoism this book is very nice. It explains all the basic concepts in an easy to read and understand way. Using the Pooh characters as metaphors works very well. It's easy to imagine Pooh as a practitioner of Wu Wei and seeing things for what they are in his simplicity. I'm almost convinced that A.A. Milne was a Taoist philosopher without realizing it. Moreover, my interest in Taoism is now aroused. I've always had this feeling that it's an interesting philosophy, but living in a Western society you never really get in touch with it. So, there is much more to find out. First, we'll read the follow-up though, The Te of Piglet.

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