Tuesday, 11 March 2008

THE TAO OF POOH by Benjamin Hoff, Rs. 10

Yes, that was a ten. Not a typing error. This priceless little book cost me only ten Rupees. (For my American readers, that's less than a quarter. And it came with a lovely little bookmark from Four Seasons Books in Olympia, Washington).

Going to book fairs can be humbling for writers, when we see the ultimate fate (and price!) of those words (printed and published! Recognised! Acknowledged!) of which we are so proud. But mostly, I'm just thrilled to find treasure at incredible bargains.

I absolutely love this book. So light, so deep, so true, so .. Tao. Here are some of my favourite lines from it:

It seems fairly obvious to some of us that a lot of scholars need to go outside and sniff around -- walk through the grass, talk to the animals. That sort of thing.

"Lots of people talk to animals," said Pooh.
"Not very many listen, though," he said.
"That's the problem," he added.
By the time it came to the edge of the Forest the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "There is no hurry. We shall get there some day."
(A. A. Milne)
If you compare the City with the Forest, you may begin to wonder why it's man who goes around classifying himself as The Superior Animal.

"Superior to what?" asked Pooh.
"If people were Superior to Animals, they'd take better care of the world," said Pooh.
What could we call that moment before we begin to eat the honey? Some would call it anticipation, but we think it's more than that. We would call it awareness. It's when we become happy and realise it, if only for an instant.
From caring comes courage. We might add that from it also comes wisdom. It's rather significant, we think, that 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.
Sitting contented by Walden Pond a few years ago, a Wise Observer wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." The desperation may have been quiet then, we suppose. Now, it's deafening.
"How do you do Nothing?" asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.
"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it."
"Oh, I see," said Pooh.
"This is a nothing sort of thing that we're doing now."
"Oh, I see," said Pooh again.
"It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."
(A. A. Milne)
An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what's in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to.

Many people are afraid of Emptiness, 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.
Why do the enlightened seem filled with light and happiness, like children? Why do they sometimes even look and talk 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.
A Brain can do all kinds of things, but the things that it can do are not the most important things.

The once chance we have to avoid certain disaster is to change our approach, and to learn to value wisdom and contentment. These are the things that are being searched for anyway, through Knowledge and Cleverness, but they do not come from Knowledge and Cleverness. They never have, and they never will.

- from Benjamin Hoff's book: The Tao of Pooh

I'm going to "release" this book a la bookcrossing, so if anybody in Bangalore wants it, let me know so I can set it free and flying into your hands.

Incidentally, A. A. Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, is one of my earliest favourite authors. His books of poetry, When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six, are amongst my most treasured possessions. I've actually owned Now We Are Six from the age of six - it was a gift from a special teacher, Miss Evans, and she signed it with a quotation by Robert Louis Stevenson--

"The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."


Sherri said...

Hi askios, thanks for your comments! You have an interesting blog - I've enjoyed reading the inspiring quotes from this post. I will definitely visit the South of India some day - can't wait. Thanks for the referral to sloganmurugan - fun stuff. This is all whetting my appetite for more adventures in India!

Unknown said...

I LOVE The Tao of Pooh. !!! I can't believe you found it for 10 rupees. That's like finding a priceless diamond in the gutter, or something similar. Such a treasure of a book. I liked your 7 things, too.

Unknown said...

I must read this book again. I remember it being good, but the contents didn't stick.

I have had my copies of When We Were Young and Now We are Six since I was six months old. Are yours the ones with the green covers and the tiny picture of Christopher Robin trying to secure his suspenders in the middle? My fave is still Mary Jane and her lovely rice pudding for dinner again.

Thanks for the boost. I am now all nostalgic and happy.