As I sit here trying to find the right words to start this paper | can’t help but think how almost comical it is that Benjamin Huff points out in his book, “The Tao of Pooh,” that a scholar is perplexed by the concept of the Tao because his own knowledge gets in the way of his understanding. Here I sit, an accomplished student, unable to come up with my first sentence to a 5 page paper. Is it because of my knowledge, or my clustered mind of expectation that I draw a blank?
I am so focused on how my education has taught me that a paper should start that I am unable to clear my mind for even a second so that a new idea might have the chance to be created. I’m trying to force things. I am failing miserably at practicing perhaps one of the most important teachings of Taoism, wu wei, the natural rhythm of things. After all this thought, it is Benjamin Huff who reminds me of an old Taoist saying that “a thousandmile journey starts with one step,” so shouldn’t I realize that a 5 page paper starts with just one word (p137)?
It was while rereading the forward to “The Tao of Pooh” that I decided to stop letting my expectations of how a paper should start, or my superiority complex and ego get in the way, and so instead I just started writing. This is my humble attempt at practicing wu wei, I can only hope that my cleverness does not get in the way. The man behind Taoism, Lao-tse, said that the earth is a reflection of heaven and that the laws here on earth are the same as the laws in heaven. A man does not control these laws and the more a man interferes with these laws, the more troubles he will have (Huff, 1982).
In “The Tao of Pooh,” Benjamin Huff often speaks of the uncarved block, or P’u. The uncarved block (P’u) is representative of things as they are in their natural form, untouched, and unchanged. Pooh is the uncarved block in the story of “The Tao of Pooh. ” Piglet explains it perfectly when he says, “Pooh hasn’t much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right (Huff, p. 21). ” Pooh is simple, like a child, and that does not mean in any way that he is stupid, in fact, to the Taoist it means quite the opposite. Pooh has an inner wisdom because he carries no arrogance.
Pooh is humble. His mind is empty and he is open to the experience of his current circumstance. Benjamin and Pooh go on to teach us to accept our limitations with their Cottleston Pie Principle. They show us that sometimes your limitations can actually be your strengths in certain situations and that when you fight your limitations it is possible to cause much larger problems for yourself. As Pooh puts it, “you can’t go very far, if you don’t know who you are (Huff, 1982). ” Benjamin also explains how it can be difficult to recognize your own value.
He tells us it is inevitable that when you know who you are, you will encounter certain things you dislike about yourself, and that is okay, because then you have an opportunity to turn the negative into a positive (Huff, 1982). The Taoist takes the good with the bad, and trusts that everything happens exactly as it should. Things are not always as they seem in the moment, each moment is a piece of a much larger production that would cease to exist without the perfect order of each action and reaction, both positive and negative. The Taoist accepts the order of things.
He practices wu wei, and so he does, without doing. A perfect example of the mastery of wu wei is the art of Tai Chi, in which you weaken your opponent by wearing him out with his own wasted energy as you effortlessly dance around his attacks, never using any force of your own (Huff, 1982). Before reading “The Tao of Pooh” | had never understood the concept of Tai Chi before, and now that I do I would love to learn how to practice it. Perhaps the most eye-opening lesson that I found in the book “The Tao of Pooh” was on the concept of saving time.
Benjamin Huff explains that, “you can’t save time. You can only spend it, but you can spend it wisely or foolishly (Huff, p. 108). ” He goes on to describe how man has created so many machines in an effort to supposedly “save time,” but in reality all he has done is give himself something he has to work longer hours to afford having, and so therefore no time has been saved at all. He tells us to go visit a culture without any time saving machines, and be surprised by how much extra time we have. When Pooh is asked what his favorite time is, he replies it is the moment before he eats his honey.
Benjamin explains this moment as awareness. The reward of eating the honey makes Pooh happy, but without the process before the reward, the reward would mean nothing (Huff, 1982). When you follow the Tao, or the way, everything is simple. Each person has the ability to enjoy life and be happy, and that ability is found within the self by allowing yourself to have a mind void of worry, realizing that each one of us is unique and has the most important role to play. The stone becomes nothing without the stonecutter, and likewise the stonecutter cannot be without the stone (Huff, 1982).
We are all interdependent on each other, this is the Tao. According to Huff, many people live lives of quiet desperation, trying to buy their happiness or importance, but this is not necessary. We can all be happy and important when we realize our own value, and through this realization we can let love and compassion can lead the way. Huff suggests that if we really want to be happy then we should begin by being appreciative of who we are, what we have, and what we can do (Huff, 1982). “To the Taoist, nothing is something,” and they call it T’ai Hsu, the “Great Nothing” (Huff, p143).