27 April 2011

Hoffman Week, Day 3: Mid and Far East Literature

I didn't care what class Barbara taught, I was still going to take it. Even though I had no clue what Mid East Literature even consisted of, I relished at the opportunity to learn something knew from her. This willingness certainly paid off as I found one of my favorite books of all time through this class. 

If you haven't read The Tao of Pooh, I demand that you pick up a copy this instant and read it. No excuses. Your children can wait. ;)

I'm not lying when I say that this book changed my life. As I read it, I internalized every word as if he was speaking specifically to me. The practices and principles of The Tao resonated with me as nothing has before. While most of the characters surrounding Pooh worry about life or look at it with pessimism, Pooh just is. I strive to attain his level of consciousness, to be able to simply be.

I've always considered other cultures to be wiser and more progressive than our own in the US and Taoism is no exception. Ancient people all over the world were more connected to nature, connected to each other and to themselves than Americans will be in the next century. Though the actual Tao may be difficult to read in some respects, Benjamin Hoff's version brings all of its amazing qualities to a more comprehensible level.

I had several "Aha!" or "Yes!" moments while reading through this text. On page 21, Hoff writes "...the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain." in order to describe Pooh's mindset. It was only after reading this phrase that I finally started to understand why Hoff chose to use these characters in his book. Though I used to watch 'Winnie the Pooh' as a child, I was often angry at Pooh and especially Tigger because Pooh seemed completely apathetic to anything and everything and Tigger consistently hurt others without getting into real trouble. In reality, Pooh is just in such a peaceful state of mind he has no need to over complicate life or situations and he sees true beauty in everything, even things often considered simple or plain. And Tigger, well, Tigger is still mean.

Another favorite quote of mine is, “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.”(p. 137) Those of us in America seem to be constantly searching for the next best thing, for true happiness, or the item or person that will finally make our life complete. We do this as if we are going to be walking along one day and see happiness laying on the ground, waiting for us to pick it up. Pooh, on the other hand, has come to the realization that everything he needs to be happy is right in front of him, or rather, within him, and therefore he need not look any further.We have wisdom, happiness and courage every moment of every day but are too busy looking outside ourselves to utilize what is within us.

Next we have: “If people were Superior to Animals, they’d take better care of the world.”(p. 77) Take a moment to internalize that one. I know you've thought the same thing. Yes, animals fight and kill one another, but they do not do it for any reason other than survival (even males who fight other males over a female are simply trying to be the best in their pack, to survive.) Animals do not lie, over complicate things or analyze ideas to death. They simply exist. They respect the environment in which they live and they respect their neighbors. They don't eat when they're not hungry. They don't destroy things just because they can. We create so many problems for ourselves and blame others when we cannot find the right solutions. And People still think they are better than Animals?

Finally, I call upon this quote to brilliantly express my last point. “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.” (p. 146) When we are empty, we are at peace. We do not worry or stress or get upset or fight or get angry or desire. An empty mind is free to enjoy life for what it is and has everything it could want because it's not looking for anything. Emptiness does not mean you are dumb or blind or apathetic; it means you can allow all of the potential within you to come out in full force because it isn't being blocked by the cares of the world. Go ahead, strive to be empty. 

Did you read the book yet?

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