The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff – Simon Vance

For some time I’ve referred to one co-worker as Eeyore, because every time anyone asked her in ordinary conversation how she was, instead of saying “fine” or what-have-you she always says “oh, well” and follows with a description of how tired or headache-y or what-have-you she is. The odd thing is she’s always pretty darned cheerful. But it was still inevitable that she be labeled “Eeyore”.

Then I realized that another co-worker, who barges into every situation, takes over conversations, assumes control over things she has no right to controlling, and never does anything quietly – she is Rabbit. And another girl, who climbs rock walls and goes for long hikes for fun (an alien mindset) and whose laugh can be heard rooms away, and who despite being half my size makes ten times more noise just walking … Tigger. It didn’t take long to assign the rest of the Pooh Gang to coworkers. I would be Piglet – being somewhat round, and more than somewhat timid in some situations – but someone else round and timid wanted it, so I took a deep breath and admitted to being Wol Owl, the notorious know-it-all who really doesn’t. So I laughed out loud when Simon Vance read the line “Owl told him in 25,000 monotonous words or more …” Heh. Who (whoooo) knew? I’m even more Owl than I thought.

It’s funny, though – I’d forgotten that in addition to being Mr. Frowny Face Eeyore was such a horrid know-it-all. That (sadly) means that my co-worker is not as Eeyore as I thought. Or rather, she is Disney Eeyore, not Real Eeyore.

It’s been a very long time since I first read this, and I took on the Audible edition based on a low price and a Simon Vance narration. The great Simon Vance, one of the upper echelons of narration rock stars, reads Pooh? Oh, you know I’m in. And it was terrific. Now, the reason I listen to audiobooks at work is that my coworkers have no filters, and no indoor voices. Eeyore isn’t so bad, but when I say Rabbit does nothing quietly, I mean it literally: she flops into her chair with a clunk that used to make me think she fell, badly injured; she types loudly with her artificial nails; she yawns at the top of her lungs. Between her and a coworker I will refer to as the Heffalump (I’m just deeply greatful that Tigger is in a different room), the volume and stupidity get so thick on some days you could cut it with a chainsaw; complaining (and breaking down into tearful whimpering) to management has resulted in absolutely no change in their behavior, but instead the suggestion that I listen to something using earphones.

Hence a really healthy Goodreads Challenge number.

And hence my very deep appreciation for the Taoist philosophy outlined in this book and illustrated by Winnie-the-Pooh. “He advised those who wanted strong health to: sit like a turtle, walk like a pigeon, and sleep like a dog. When asked for his major secret, though, he said ‘Inner quiet’.” To listen to that surrounded by people who have literally no concept of “inner quiet” is an interesting experience.

Like silence after noise or cool, clear water on a hot, stuffy day, emptiness cleans out the messy mind and charges up the batteries of spiritual energy. Many people are afraid of emptiness, however, because it reminds them of loneliness. Everything has to be filled in, it seems …

I loved this book as a kid, and I think I love it more now. Benjamin Hoff takes not only a bone-deep understanding of Tao with an even more impressive knowledge and understanding of Pooh Bear and melds them beautifully. No: as he points out, they are already one, and he simply reveals that. He’s right. And he’s funny.

And as to that narration: I’ve been referring to Simon Vance and his ilk, and seeing them referred to, as rock stars for a long time. So when at one point Himself is called upon to recite some (possibly made-up) popular music lyrics – “Oh baby don’t leave me” – Oh, baby. It is magnificent. Just magnificent.

So. Listen to this book, and bask in the beautiful narration of a clever, clever book, and try – do try – to be more Pooh than Eeyore or Rabbit or Owl.

Just, whatever you do, don’t be a bisy backson.

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