Laura Nayibi Arias, Culture Editor
“The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff is a book widely known by philosophers for its coherent illustration of Taoist ethics through an exceptionally simple, yet sophisticated, vocabulary. Hoff successfully uses the characters from the television show “Winnie the Pooh,” a cartoon series that has been around since the 1980s, to take the reader on a journey through the basic principles of Taoism. Written with a simple tone that most can understand, Hoff not only analyzes the principles of Taoism, but evidently applies them to his writing.
In short, Taoism is the practice of living in harmony with the “Tao,” otherwise known as the “way.” The “way” is short for the natural way/path of life which creates the natural laws of life. Essentially, Taoism encourages people to have faith in the inevitably unpredictable flow of life. Hoff states, “The basic Taoism that we are concerned with here is simply a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life. From the Taoist point of view, the natural result of this harmonious way of living is happiness.” (Hoff 5). Taoists believe that the natural laws of life were known by everyone once in their life, most likely at a young age, but were stripped off by societal influences.
One of the most basic natural laws is to live a life of simplicity and humility. Hoff uses the main character, Pooh, as an example of a person living such a life, while using the rest of the cast as models of the different personalities most people have adopted, which do not reflect Taoist morale.
Hoff poses that maybe humanity should be more like Pooh; by identifying and analyzing his characteristics through Taoism, he suggests that Pooh follows the natural flow of life and does not force his actions. This is what allows him to embrace his inner nature and act instinctively, which in turn brings him more happiness. Hoff argues that “mistakes are made – or imagined – by man, the creature with the overloaded Brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard” (Hoff 69). Here he is proposing that humans perceive certain things in their lives to be mistakes because their minds are overloaded and thus cannot act through the natural laws.
With this book, Hoff is not indicating that humans should not think or act upon their emotions, rather that they should derive their actions from unloaded, clear minds; they should follow their hearts and instincts to make decisions, rather than their brains which are highly influenced by other sources. He does not say whether it is easy or difficult, but he does say that it can be done.