Today is October 30 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you just go along not bothering?” People who navigate the chaos have learned not to be bothered by much. To help explain this Benjamin Hoff wrote his bestselling book The Tao of Pooh at night on weekends while working as a tree pruner in the Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park. The writing of the book is in and of itself a reminder that Hoff worked a full-time job and wrote the book on nights and weekends. He was not bothered by this approach that so many authors have used throughout history.
The Tao of Pooh is intended as an introduction to the Eastern belief system of Taoism for Westerners. It allegorically employs the fictional characters of A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories to explain the basic principles of philosophical Taoism. Hoff later wrote The Te of Piglet, a companion book.
Hoff uses many of Milne's characters to symbolize ideas that differ from or accentuate Taoist tenets. Winnie-the-Pooh himself, for example, personifies the principles of wu wei, the Taoist concept of "effortless doing, inexertion, inaction, or effortless action.”
As Hoff writes:
“When you work with Wu Wei, you put the round peg in the round hole and the square peg in the square hole. No stress, no struggle. Egotistical Desire tries to force the round peg into the square hole and the square peg into the round hole. Cleverness tries to devise craftier ways of making pegs fit where they don’t belong. Knowledge tries to figure out why round pegs fit into round holes, but not square holes. Wu Wei doesn’t try. It doesn’t think about it. It just does it. And when it does, it doesn’t appear to do much of anything. But Things Get Done.”
In contrast, characters like Owl and Rabbit over-complicate problems, often over-thinking to the point of confusion, and Eeyore pessimistically complains and frets about existence, unable to just be. Hoff regards Pooh's simpleminded nature, unsophisticated worldview and instinctive problem-solving methods as conveniently representative of the Taoist philosophical foundation. As Winnie the Pooh said “Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.”
In practice, wu wei is aimed at through behaviour modification; cryptically referenced meditation and more purely physical breathing techniques as in the Guanzi text, which includes just taking the right posture.
When your body is not aligned,
The inner power will not come.
When you are not tranquil within,
Your mind will not be well ordered.
Align your body, assist the inner power,
Then it will gradually come on its own.
The Guanzi text is an ancient Chinese political and philosophical text that is named for and traditionally attributed to the 7th century BCE philosopher and statesman Guan Zhong, who served as Prime Minister to Duke Huan of Qi. At over 135,000 characters long, the Guanzi is one of the longest early Chinese philosophical texts.
Here are five quotes from The Tao of Pooh:
“Do you really want to be happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you've got.”
“The surest way to become Tense, Awkward, and Confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard - one that thinks too much.”
“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can't save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”
“Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, 'This isn't supposed to be happening this way,' and trying harder to make it happen some other way.”
"How can you get very far,
If you don't know who you are?
How can you do what you ought,
If you don't know what you've got?
And if you don't know which to do
Of all the things in front of you,
Then what you'll have when you are through
Is just a mess without a clue
Of all the best that can come true
If you know What and Which and Who.”
Today’s reflection challenges you to think about these five quotes and the concept of going along not bothering. This approach may seem contrary to those trying to translate one dream after another into reality. But as with all Navigate the Chaos posts, remember that going along not bothering may not work for you, but it certainly may work for someone else.
How often are you like Winnie the Pooh?
Can you just go along not bothering?