on December 17, 1996
If you're like me, you've never really understood the mystical and murky meanings of
Eastern philosophies. I had that humanities class and all, but it never really sunk in while I
was sitting in the lecture hall behind some giggling freshman. These amazingly simple
books have taught me the secrets of life and happiness. Well, not really, but they do
teach you the way to get through life without life getting to you. Better than the Stress
Ball and less expensive than a trip to a swanky health spa, it has been helpful to me. Hoff
explains Taoism through beloved characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories by A.A.
Milne. Yes, that's right, Pooh. I know it sounds weird, but it really works. These books
are very charming, funny, and witty. I now understand Taoist philosophy (I think), Pooh,
and Piglet better. I'm sure some Eastern philosophers are annoyed (or rolling over in their
graves) at these books, but, hey, it's the only way Americans are every gonna understand
it at all!
on October 14, 2003
This sequel of the masterpiece "Tao of Pooh" beats the original in terms of density of ideas and clarity of presentation. It is nearly double the size of "The Tao of Pooh", hence gave me double the pleasure of reading it. Having read A.A. Milne's Pooh classics, and having thoroughly enjoyed the "Tao of Pooh", it was only natural that I buy this book and have more fun learning about Taoism through the enjoyable adventures of Pooh and Piglet.
This volume focuses on the various Piglet stories, showing us how smallness can be a virtue (Te). It recounts Piglet's myriad adventures: the Heffalump, Owl's house episode, and encounters with Tigger and Eeyore to teach us about philosophical truths: things can look different that what they are, one needs to find their place and live in harmony with nature, etc. Actually, in almost an imperceptible way the author gets us to think about fundamental issues that are at the core of our relationship with the modern world. For example, how the West borrowed early scientific knowledge from the East but did not borrow the philosophical basis behind that knowledge. Since I pursue a science career, this particular issue triggers an important bell for me. One can almost sense an anti-science substratum in the book, yet as a scientist I cannot help agree with the author in many cases. Science today is like a vehicle running amok without a driver. Is this really good for us? Why aren't we even asking ourselves these questions? At least Benjamin Hoff does, and he deserves an open ear.
Of course, not all the ideas are developed into an indisputable treatise. This book is classified as "humor" after all. This is perhaps appropriate since the Taoist attitude to life also depends on humor to some extent. Pooh and Piglet, the humorous characters who do not take themselves seriously are in a way the perfect vehicle to illustrate ancient Taoist principles. This is a highly recommended book!
If Pooh is the embodiment of the Tao, the Piglet is the embodiment of the Te, the Chinese word and principle for Virtue. Benjamin Hoff, in his first book 'The Tao of Pooh' talks about the religio-philosophical tradition of Taoism, and in this follow-up book, he explores in more detail with Piglet, who felt neglected in the first volume, but felt it only natural considering he's a Very Small Animal (and life is not always easy for a Very Small Animal), the concept of virtue, or the Te.
The Te is not so easily contained in the word virtue, however. 'It is instead a quality of special character, spiritual strength, or hidden potential unique to the individual--something that comes from the Inner Nature of things. And something, we might add, that the individual who possess it may be quite unaware of--as is the case with Piglet through most of the Pooh stories.'
Of course, virtue un-enacted is a Very Small Virtue, indeed, so it become the responsibility of those with a Te to bring it forward in transformation. A Very Small Virtue, like a Very Small Animal, can be a good thing if the dreaded Heffalump comes by -- it might not get squashed; it might be ignored. But this is not the way of the Te.
The Te such as Piglet's can overcome distraction such as the Tigger Tendency -- the tendency to bounce off in different directions simply because they feel good. It can also help overcome the increasing drive toward acquisition (a Very Small Animal doesn't need Very Many Things; a society with cares for Virtue must not have an overpowering care for Things).
The modern person tends to overlook the small virtues in favour of Progress, in pursuit of reaching a potential, which 'is seen as an increase of tools'. Of course, with more tools we can do more stuff! And with more stuff, we can make yet more tools!
The trend is not only material, but academic and philosophical, too. 'Western philosophy, having little connection with everyday living, is (to this observer, at least) comparatively egocentric and impractical, with much Arguing and Theorising, and much bounding back and forth across the intellectual landscape--a pleasant, part-time diversion formulated by and aimed at the likes of Owl, Rabbit, and sometimes Eeyore, but not particularly supportive of the likes of Piglet and Pooh.'
Of course, one has an image to maintain, too. This is the point of existence of some Owls, who must be able to spell TUESDAY to gain respect, even if they postulate that any 'variant' of the spelling is sufficient. (Some lessons are repeated from The Tao of Pooh, because they are Very Important Lessons, and some people won't read both books, being of Very Little Time).
The Te is subtle and compassionate. It is not vocal, it is not loud. Lao-tse wrote, 'The skilled worker leaves no tracks' -- the worker is so at one with nature that no disturbance is made. Certainly making a broad show of Virtue is to cause a disturbance.
And yet, it is vital that virtue be prominent in action and life. What is a Very Small Animal to do?
After much more searching and being, Piglet arrives at the stage where he can finally be positive, to ward off the Eeyore effects, and thus attract positive with positive, attract virtue with virtue, in a low-key and subtle form. And finally, Piglet, a Very Small Animal of seemingly no consequence, attains recognition: 'Piglet, Esq. My Dear Sir: The Board of Regents of Sandhurst University wish me to inform you of their desire to grant you an honorary degree of Brave Animal (B.A.). We should be most pleased if you could be present at the awards ceremony, which shall be held on...'
Piglets in the world, unite! Take a lesson, perhaps from one of the most Piglet-y figures of our century, Mohandas Gandhi -- a frail and shy man, frightened by crowds and a Very Small Animal in many ways. But with a great and irresistably subtle Te, virtue, that defeated the greatest empire on earth (a Very Big Animal indeed) without an army, and without backing down.
Every ending is a beginning. Now Piglet's tale is over. Now you must begin.
on January 30, 2003
Hoff uses the Te of Piglet both as a platform to illustrate some Taoist principles and a platform to show how out of wack our current "ideal lifestyle" is so far from that. A lot of the earlier reviews complain that Hoff uses the book to bash Republicans and Woman he does neither. He uses the book to point out the hypocrisy between what certain segments of our population say and then do, the funny thing is the book was published in 1993, and his points are more poignant now then perhaps they were even then. This is the first time I've ever written a reviw on amazon[.com] but the Te of Piglet is that good of a book. The Tao of Pooh was a great book, but it's sort of like life as it could be, the Te of Piglet is more about about Taoism from life as it is. I think that's why so many people like the Tao of Pooh more...it's much easier to like an idealization of a place a thousand years in the past (or in fiction) then it is to realize that Taoism isn't dead and we need to actively find it or we get the Confused, and Destructive world we currently have.
on April 25, 2002
I've read several reviews of this book that, in my small viewpoint seem to miss the greater lesson. Hoff's first book explained the basic principles of Taoism to the uninitiated Western reader. Inthis book, the author takes those principles and applies them to our world. Mr. Hoff has merely taken the next logical step in the progression of learning.
When he makes references to politics, ecology and social problems, he is merely using examples to illustrate how we have grown away from the "the Way". It is entirely proper for him, as a teacher and a writer, to give examples to prove his point. Were he not to use examples, he would be criticized for that, as well.
This book is a very well written continuation of the premise established in his first book. I would encourage anyone to read this and to include it on the "must read" list of any high school or college student.
on August 15, 1997
It is one of the best books I haver ever read in my life. It portrays the wrongdoings of many people in this world that think personal satisfaction is the key for their life and that success is defined as one having a lot of green pieces of paper. The book tells people that if one flows like water, leads people in good ways, always thinks that the truth is the most important thing in the world, the world will benefit as a whole, and thus we all would-not only the rich people that scrounge money out of other people's hands - experience the harmony and the beauty that this world has to offer to us. The book enforces people to change the negative force into positive force, and that patience, sincerity, virtue, kindness, generosity, and fidelity should be the essence of human beings and that we all should apply these words of ardor into our everyday lives