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Silly old bear

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Silly old bear

?Silly Old Bear!? Almost every child and adult has heard this phrase before which comes from the Winne the Pooh series written by A.A. Milne. In this series of books written about Winnie the Pooh, the 'silly old bear,? his friends, and their adventures together in the Hundred Acre Wood Forest, Milne captures the ?incomparably and enduringly, the frolic and indolence, the sweetness and foolishness, of animals which are also people(Discovering Authors).? Many critics and people agree that Pooh is simply an ignorant little bear who is only interested in self-indulgence and is literally a 'silly old bear.? This statement, however, is not true. Through the use of his characters in the Winnie the Pooh stories, Milne is able to present both the good and bad qualities of people that make up the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. One may even say the Pooh is a master of Taoism.

Born a Scotsman, Alan Alexander Milne spent most of his childhood in London where he grew up to be one of the most well known British authors of his time(Dennis). Today Milne is praised for his ?accurate and sympathetic observations of child behavior, his wit, and his skill with language, especially wordplay and dialogue? which are easily recognizable in his famous Winnie the Pooh stories(Discovering Authors). Although people today regard Milne's stories as children's stories, Milne did not intend them for children, but rather for the child within every person(Dennis). As Barbara Novak puts it, Milne's work ?captures the gaiety of a child's mind and suggests a positive attitude to life and a fresh appreciation of the smallest things(Novak).? Not only does Milne show the positive attitudes of people, but he also shows the negative attitudes and characteristics of people which, combined, come to make up the philosophy of Taoism.

What is Taoism? Taoism is and ancient Chinese philosophy that began during the 300's B.C. The word tao originally meant way or road. The general idea behind Taoism is that reality consists of all the individual ways and that the characteristics and behaviors of each thing in the universe make it what it is(World Book 26). In terms of Pooh and his friends, the concern of Taoism is a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life. If one has mastered these simple ways of life, he or she will live a harmonious and happy life(Hoff 5).

Now, how does Pooh, a simple-minded bear, become a master of a Chinese philosophy? The answer, to put it simply, is just by being simple. Pooh is able to accomplish what he does by being simple-minded. In a Taoist's mind simple-minded does not mean stupid. Simplicity, called the Uncarved Block, to a Taoist is the very essence of natural power(Hoff 10,12). Working with the Uncarved Block, a person is able to enjoy the simple things in life and is able to do things spontaneously and having them work (Hoff 21). Pooh may do silly things and may say silly things, but they always turn out right. Knowing this, it is easy to see how Pooh is made the hero of the stories, while the thinkers,

like Owl and Eeyore, remain unhappy and don't seem to accomplish any real goal.

Eeyore, the continually miserable gray donkey, never finds real happiness in his life because he is constantly thinking of the worst that can happen or is trying to give himself credit for something good that has happened only to be let down when the credit is given to someone else, like Pooh. A perfect example of this is when a party is thrown in honor of Pooh for his bravery and assistance in saving Roo from drowning, saving Piglet from being surrounded by water in his own house, and finding the North Pole. Eeyore believes that the party is for him because he thinks that he is the one who had saved Roo and starts to give a speech. All of a sudden he is let down by Christopher Robin who gives the present to Pooh instead of him.

Another character that is just the opposite of Pooh is Owl. Rather than follow the Taoist principle of learning through direct experience, Owl learns intellectually from books(Hoff 25). As one critic says, ?Owl's obscure learning is to spread a veil of confusion over the doings of the rest of the Forest(Crews 23). According to Taoist principles, the knowledge of the scholarly, such as scientists or in this case Owl, always wants to blame the ignorant or, using the term previously mentioned, the simple-minded(Hoff 31). When Owl's house falls down, Owl immediately asks Pooh if he had knocked down his house when, in fact, it is Owl's own fault for building his house in a place where it could easily be blown down.

Another simple principle of Taoism is Inner Nature. This means that everything has its own place and function, or that everything has its limitations(Hoff 40). When one learns to respect his or her own Inner Nature, he or she knows where to belong and what he or she can do. This principle is demonstrated in Pooh's ?Cottleston Pie? song. ?Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,/ A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly./ Ask me a riddle and I reply:/ Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie (Milne Winnie the Pooh 74).? The line about the bird and flying seems very obvious. A bird's function, so to speak, is to fly. According to Taoism, however, many people do not understand and violate this simple concept(Hoff 39). Many people do not listen to their Inner Nature and, therefore, do not understand themselves(Hoff 57). One character in the Winne the Pooh stories who does not know his limitations is Tigger.

Tigger believes that he can do anything and everything that anyone else can. For example, when Roo asks Tigger if Tiggers can fly like Owl, Tigger answers yes, but that they just don't want to. Then Roo asks if they can climb trees, and Tigger, once again, replies with a yes. Soon, however, Roo and Tigger find themselves stuck in the tallest tree in Hundred Acre Wood. Once he can face and understand his limitations, he can work with them rather than have the limitations work against him. Taoists believe that limitations can often times be a person's strength(Hoff 49).

Wu Wei, another principle of Taoism, literally means ??without doing, causing, or making(Hoff 68).?? When someone learns the concept of Wu Wei, he is able to work with the natural order of things and use a minimal amount of effort. According to Taoists, Wu Wei doesn't try. If a person tries too hard, it doesn't work. Wu Wei doesn't think; it just does and everything seems to work out(Hoff 75). That is what makes it so effortless. At its highest level, Wu Wei is indefinable and practically invisible(Hoff 85). What character in Winnie the Pooh epitomizes this principle? Why, it, of course, is Pooh. Pooh seems to be the most effortless character of the whole series(Hoff 69).

A perfect example of this idea is when Piglet is surrounded by water. After raining for many days, Piglet gets trapped in his house because the entire ground around him is surrounded with water. Piglet writes a message in a bottle and throws it in the water in hopes that someone will find it and come to rescue him. The bottle floats to Pooh's house, but Pooh can not read the message. He then decides to go find someone like Christopher Robin to help him read the message. Since he sees that a bottle can float, he decides that a jar can float as well. He climbs on top of an empty jar and heads towards Christopher Robin's house in his new boat. When he reaches the house and they read the message, Christopher Robin and Pooh need a way to get to Piglet's house in order to rescue him, for they both can not fit on top of Pooh's jar. Pooh then has an idea to go in Christopher Robin's umbrella. That is how Pooh rescued Piglet. This little story shows how effortlessly Pooh came to rescue Piglet. Pooh really did not think about an elaborate plan, he just did whatever came to him and everything worked out.

Wu Wei does not have any accidents. Although things may go wrong at first, things will work out if a person just lets Wu Wei work them out. Eeyore's birthday is an excellent example of this. Pooh only knew that it was Eeyore's birthday because he had told him. Pooh ...

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