A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine lent me a book that his mother gave him. It is a Winnie the Pooh book. And a book about Taoism. 

The premise is that Pooh is in fact a Taoist master. Taoism is new to me but I am very familiar with Pooh and his friends. So, like we teach our students, I tried to make connections between what I know and what I want to know. Fortunately for me, those connections were made for me on the back cover of the book. Now I know that Pooh has some lessons for us all as we navigate our way through COVID and all of its uncertainty.

But Pooh does not navigate his way through anything. In fact, he stumbles his way through everything! Stumbling might even be a stretch. He does not even really do that. He does not really do anything. While his friends are busy doing things like fretting, hesitating, calculating, and pontificating, he just is. 

Eeyore frets…

Eeyore does not only worry about things that have already happened, are happening, or might happen later, he complains about all of these happenings. Eeyore holds knowledge for the sake of complaining about something. Don’t be like Eeyore. 

Piglet hesitates…

Piglet constantly second guesses himself. In times of uncertainty, we often have not much more to go on than our guesses. They might be educated guesses but they are still guesses. The more uncertain the times, the less educated the guesses. Educated guesses come from acting on uneducated guesses so it follows that no educated guesses will ever come from second guessers. Don’t be like Piglet. 

Rabbit calculates…

Rabbit holds knowledge for the sake of being clever. His life is ‘a constant struggle to change everything and everyone else but himself, and interfere with things that he has no business interfering with.’ Leave well alone. Don’t be like Rabbit. 

Owl pontificates…

Owl holds knowledge for the sake of appearing wise. He would rather keep what he knows to himself or, even worse, explain it in a way that no-one else can understand. He is more interested in what others think he knows than what he actually knows and he is certainly not interested in working for the enlightenment of others. He leaves his friends in the dark. Don’t be like Owl.

Pooh just is

Be like Pooh. Well, kind of like Pooh? Worrying can be good for you sometimes and it is often not a bad thing to look before you leap. He could also pay a bit more attention to where he is going and at times he could work a bit harder to get there. Then he might not stumble so much. But when Pooh does stumble he is able to adapt spontaneously and without fear. 

Pooh is able to adapt because he values humility and simplicity over arrogance and complexity. This is Pooh’s lesson to us all as we navigate our way through COVID and prepare our children for an uncertain or unknown future.

Hoff, Benjamin, and Ernest H. Shepard. The Tao of Pooh. Methuen, 1989.