Book Notes: The Tao of Pooh


Winnie the P’u: the Hero of the Story


P’u: Uncarved Block

The essense of the principle of the Uncarved Block is things (or people) in their original simplicity contain their own natural power.

When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other 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.


The Scholarly Owl and Fallacy of Intellectual Knowledge


“The wise are not learned; the learned are not wise.”
—Lao-tse

Rather than learn from Taoist teachers and from direct experience, he learns intellectually and indirectly from books.

The Confusionist Dessicated Scholar is one who studies Knowledge for the sake of Knowledge, and who keeps what he learns to himself or to his own small group, writing pretentious papers that no one else can understand, rather than working for the enlightenment of others.

Scholars always using Big Words that some of us can’t understand and are there to keep us from understanding.

For scholars, putting names on things is the most vital activity in the world.

Scholars are useful in that they provide a lot of information. It’s just that there is Something More, and that Something More is what life is really all about.


Cottleston Pie and Inner Nature


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 unique, Inner Nature, is something that Cleverness cannot really understand.

“A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.”

Trying to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.

Everything/one has its own place and function.

When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong.

“A fish can’t whistle and neither can I.”

I have certain limitations, and unlike Tigger I know what they are. There can be lots of things wrong with blindly trying to do what you aren’t designed for.

The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.

“One disease, long life; no disease, short life.” Those who know what’s wrong with them and take care of themselves accordingly will tend to live a lot longer than those who consider themselves perfectly healthy and neglect their weaknesses.

Your limitations can be your strengths.

“Why does a chicken, I don’t know why.”

We don’t need to play Abstract Philosopher, asking unnecessary questions and coming up with meaningless answers. What we need to do is recognize Inner Nature and work with Things As They Are.

Everything has its own Inner Nature. People are easily led away from what’s right for them, because people have Brain, and Brain can be fooled.

Inner Nature cannot be fooled. But many people do not look at it or listen to it, and consequently do not understand themselves very much. They have little respect for themselves, and are therefore easily influenced by others.

The Way of Self-Reliance starts with recognizing who we are, what we’ve got to work with, and what works best for us.

Point our weaknesses or unpleasant tendencies in a different direction than we have been.

The Wise are Who They Are. They work with what they’ve got and do what they can do.


Wu Wei is the Pooh Way


Don’t try too hard. Be like water flowing over and around the rocks in its path.

Wu Wei means “without doing, causing, or making.” But practically speaking, it means without meddlesome, combative, or egotistical effort.

When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around use, we reach the level of Wu Wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of Minimal Effort.

Tao doesn’t force or interfere with things, but lets them work in their own way, to produce results naturally.

Wei Wu Wei – Do Without Doing

Cleverness takes all the credit it possibly can. But it’s not the Clever Mind that’s responsible when things work out. It’s the mind that sees what’s in front of it, and follows the nature of things.

Knowledge tries to figure out why round pegs fit round holes, but not square holes. Wu Wei doesn’t try. It doesn’t think about it. It just does it.

The surest way to become Tense, Awkward, and Confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard—one that thinks too much. The animals in the Forest don’t think too much; they just Are. People think they are a Superior Animal because they can think (and overthink).

“If people were Superior to Animals, they’d take better care of the world.” —Pooh

Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them. Follow the natural progression of things.

The Wu Wei approach to conflict-solving can be seen in T’ai Chi. The basic idea is to wear the opponent out either by sending his energy back at him or by deflecting it away, in order to weaken his power, balance, and position-for-defense. Never is force opposed with force; instead, it is overcome with yielding.


Bisy Backson and Unreachable Jars of Honey


The Bisy Backson is almost desperately active. If you ask him what his Life Interests are, he will give you a list of Physical Activities.

The Athletic sort of Backson is concerned with physical fitness, he says. But for some reason, he sees it as something that has to be pounded in from the outside, rather than built up from the inside. Therefore, he confuses exercise with work. He works when he works, works when he exercises, and works when he plays.

If you want to be healthy, relaxed, and contented, just watch what a Bisy Backson does and then do the opposite.

The chronic Backson always seems to have to be going somewhere. He doesn’t go out for a walk, though; he doesn’t have time. Always going somewhere, somewhere he hasn’t been. Anywhere but where he is.

Our Bisy Backson religions, sciences, and business ethics have tried their hardest to convince us that there is a Great Reward waiting for us somewhere, and that what we have to do is spend our lives working like lunatics to catch up with it.

Unreachable jars of honey gives people Something To Do. A way of life that keeps saying, “Around the next corner, above the next step,” works against the natural order of things and makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place—Happy and Good—and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world.

Those who think that the rewarding things in life are somewhere beyond the rainbow.

The first Bisy Backsons in this part of the world, the Puritans, practically worked themselves to death in the fields without getting much of anything in return for their tremendous effort. They were actually starving until the wiser inhabitants of the land showed them a few things about working in harmony with the earth’s rhythms. Now you plant; now you relax. Now you work the soil; now you leave it alone. They never really believed in it and so everything is tasteless, all products of soil that was not allowed to relax.

Remember the Pooh dialogue about why he’s not busy because he’s enjoying the nice day listening to the birds. p. 101

The rootless, dissatisfied ancestry:
Miserable Puritan > Restless Pioneer > Lonely Cowboy > Bisy Backson

The Backson thinks of progress in terms of fighting and overcoming. Real progress involves growing and developing, which involves changing inside, but that’s something the inflexible Backson is willing to do.

Instead they change everything else (the Bulldozer Backson), and everyone (the Bigoted Backson) else but himself, and interfere with things he has no business interfering with, including practically every form of life on earth.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” —George Bernard Shaw

The irony of Bisy Backson Society: they worship youthful energy, appearance, and attitudes but developed no effective methods of retaining them. A lack testified by the unnatural False Front approach of cosmetics and plastic surgery. Instead has developed ways of breaking youthfulness down and destroying it. Those damaging activities that are not part of the search for the Great Reward seem to accumulate under the general heading of Saving Time. (E.g., Soylent, fast food, microwave, supermarket,)

Versus China’s Teahouse and France’s Sidewalk Cafe. Practically every civilized country in the world has a place where people can go to eat, relax, and talk things over without worrying about what time it is.

If timesaving devices really saved time, there would be more time available to us now than ever before in history. But we seem to have less time than even a few years ago.

It’s great fun to go someplace where there are no timesaving devices because, when you do, you find that you have lots of time. Elsewhere, you’re too busy working to pay for machines to save you time so you don’t have to work so hard.

The MAIN problem with this great obsession for Saving Time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly. Bisy Backson has no time because he’s too busy wasting it by trying to save it.

Taoist Immortals: practice Taoist exercises, believing that exercise which strains and tire the mind and body shortens life. Favorite way of travel was “walking lightly.”

“Sit like a turtle, walk like a pigeon, and sleep like a dog.”

Honey doesn’t taste so good once it is being eaten; the goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it has been given. If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much. But if we add up the spaces between the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit.

Christmas presents once opened are Not So Much Fun as they were beforehand.

Goals cause us to go through the process, and it’s the process that makes us wise, happy, or whatever.

Enjoyment of the process is the secret that erases the myths of the Great Reward and Saving Time. This is The Way.

What do we call the moment before we begin to eat the honey? Some call it anticipation, but we think it’s more than that. It’s awareness. It’s when we become happy and realize it, if only for an instant. By Enjoying the Process, we can stretch that awareness out so that it’s no longer only a moment, but covers the whole thing. Then we can have a lot of fun like Pooh.

When we take the time to enjoy our surroundings and appreciate being alive, we find that we have no time to be Bisy Backsons anymore.


That Sort of Bear


No matter how Useful we may be, sometimes it takes a while to recognize our own value.

In order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to Believe. We don’t need to shift responsibilities to some Deity or Fate. We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it. When we do that, and stop imitating others and competing against them, things begin to work for us.

Story of Buckminster Fuller: almost committed suicide before he realized he was free to take risks, initiate action on his own, and, by doing so, to help other people. He committed himself to the work that he believed the universe wanted him to do, instead of what he had been taught to do.

The play-it-safe pessimists of the world never accomplish much of anything, because they don’t look clearly and objectively at situations, they don’t recognize or believe in their own abilities, and they won’t stretch those abilities to overcome even the smallest amount of risk.

Story of Roo Swimming and the North Pole: once we see what the situation is and what we can do about it, we need to use everything we find along the way in order to accomplish whatever is required. More often than not, the things we need are there already; all we have to is make use of them.

Tz’u is “caring” or “compassion” and is based on the character for heart.

Lao-tse names it as his “first treasure” and wrote “From caring comes courage.” And from that also comes wisdom. Those who have no compassion have no wisdom. Knowledge, yes; cleverness, maybe; wisdom, no. A clever mind is not a heart. Knowledge doesn’t really care. Wisdom does.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
—Thoreau

We can stop our desperate clinging to hollow life-substitutes, and set ourselves free. The Tiddely-Pom Principle / Snowball Effect can work negatively or positively. The important thing is to make it work for yourself and for the benefit of others, or face the Ugly Consequences.

Piglet Gives Tree to Owl Story: Do you want to be really happy? Using the Snowball Effect, you can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got. Do you want to be miserable? Begin by being discontented.

“A tree as big around as you can reach starts with a small seed; a thousand-mile journey starts with one step.” —Lao-tse

Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here.


Nowhere and Nothing


T’ai Hsu – The Great Nothing

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” —Lao-tse

To have no thought and put forth no effort is the first step towards understanding the Tao. To go nowhere and do nothing is the first step towards finding peace in the Tao. To start from no point and follow no road is the first step towards reaching the Tao.

An Empty sort of mind is valuable fro finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what’s in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable. While the Clear mind listens to a bird singing, the Stuffed-Full-of-Knowledge-and-Cleverness mind wonders what kind of bird is singing. Knowledge and Cleverness tend to concern themselves with the wrong sorts 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.

“Music is the space between notes.” —Claude Debussy

Many people are afraid of Emptiness, however, because it reminds them of Loneliness. Everything has to be filled in, it seems—appointment 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.

The power of a clear mind is beyond description. If you trace ideas back to its source, you will discover that it came from Nothing. To find the epiphanies must be completely awake.

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” —Lao-tse

It starts when we are children, helpless but aware of things, enjoying what is around us. Then Adults. 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 level of Wisdom. “Return to the beginning; become a child again.” —Lao-tse. Why do the enlightened seem filled light and happiness, 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.

It is the journey of attaining knowledge and then systematically removing it to attain Wisdom.

Abstract cleverness of mind only separates the thinker from the world of reality, and that world, the Forest of Real Life, is in a desperate condition now because of too many who think too much and care too little.
The masters of life know the Way, for they listen to the voice within them, the voice of wisdom and simplicity, the voice that reasons beyond Cleverness and knows beyond Knowledge.


The Tao of Pooh
by Benjamin Hoff

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Book Notes: The Tao of Pooh