on September 24, 2001
"The Tao of Pooh" has been called "the book most often recommended to explain Taoist principles." Hoff's fame offered a bully pulpit, and after a decade he made use of it. He wrote a companion book, "The Te of Piglet," about the way of the small, weak, childlike, feminine, sensitive, virtuous, modest, yielding, and fluid. At least, I think that's what it's about. There's little in here about either Piglet or Te (pronounced DEHr or DUHr). Instead, it's a diatribe against heavy industry, business, government (especially the Forest Service), pesticides, doctors, the military, feminists, conservatives, realists, Western culture, mainstream Americans, critics, and all the other "Eeyores" of the world. Yes, Hoff criticises critics (and shows himself to be an Eeyore). Very disappointing.
The dialog with Piglet and the others is there, though with a depressing and negative spin. (Inexplicably, Piglet has hired a thief as a bodyguard. And Eeyore isn't just gloomy, he's a mean SOB.) The original Pooh stories are there, though crudely intercut in very large chunks. The original Pooh illustrations are there. The funky capitalization is there. Quotations from Taoist philosophers are there in abundance. In fact, it's a rather long book -- almost twice as long as the first one. There are long explanatory sections about the history of Taoism and Confucianism, and smatterings of Taoist principles. The book just doesn't lift one's spirits. Instead of selling Taoism, it's an environmentalist rant. Hoff even claims that our generation will see the collapse of business/civilization as we know it, to be replaced by a new age of environmental consciousness.
Not that there aren't useful insights here, of course. One of my favorites: "A successful individual appears to succeed because he is Aggressive -- he chases after things and gets them. Chances are his positive attitude attracts those things to him and creates opportunities for success to happen. But chances are onlookers see Aggression succeeding, rather than Attitude. So that's what they imitate. And, since aggression attracts more aggression, the want-to-be-successful turn business into Busyness, creating an atmosphere of increasing combativeness and negativity in which relatively few are likely to be successful -- and even fewer are likely to be happy." Hoff recommends instead that we follow the way of Gandhi, "the greatest Piglet of all time."
Taoists have historically been critics of hierarchical, rule-based Confucian governments and practices, and they have always supported the underdog. But Taoists have also been scientists, artists, philosophers, healers, and intellectuals of all sorts. I'd rather read about their positive beliefs than about the negatives of everyone else. And I'd like to see it done with more humor. To quote Hoff, "Eeyores, in other words, are Whiners. They believe the negative but not the positive and are so obsessed with What's Wrong that the Good Things in Life pass them by unnoticed. Are they the ones, then, to give us an accurate account of what life is about? If the universe were governed by the Eeyore Attitude, the whole thing would have collapsed eons ago."
You wouldn't think the same author wrote these two books.
on January 4, 2001
Benjamin Hoff's follow-up to the Tao of Pooh, the Te of Piglet, is neither as fun or as interesting as the previous work. Te, the Taoist principle of the virtue of the small includes, according to Hoff, leaving a small footprint (as opposed to a large one) on the earth - as this book has a decidedly more ecological slant to it. Hoff remains true to the endearing format of the Tao of Pooh, but as he writes his diatribes against corporate culture and the evils of consumerism, its charm quickly wears off. Little wonder this book failed to inspire me as his previous book did.
Perhaps it was the almost preachy tone Hoff takes from time to time. Or maybe it was the fact that I simply became bored and distracted at the minutae of the philosophy. Possibly I didn't like the book because I don't like Piglet as much as I like Pooh. There are numerous reasons for my dislike of the Te of Piglet - there are so many, I honestly cannot put my finger on a single specific reason. If you had been hoping, as I had, that the Te of Piglet would be as good or better than the Tao of Pooh, you will be diasppointed.
on August 24, 2000
...if you think you're going to get a great deal more explanation of the concepts and thinking that you might have found in "The Tao of Pooh".
Oh, Mr Hoff finds the time to explain a bit about Te, and how Virtue is a Very Good Thing. But as written by many other customer-reviewers, this book rapidly turns into a vicious rant by Mr Hoff against all the things he finds personally distasteful. I get a kick out of how completely he ignores the many passages in the Tao Te Ching that talk about how little government ultimately influences our personal, spiritual lives.
At any rate, you will get a great deal less in the way of stories taken from the Pooh books- and much more dialogue Mr Hoff makes up to illustrate his points. You will get fewer concepts of Taoism and Eastern thoughts. You will get only a few new, more advanced concepts of Taoism.
What you will get, as folks have pointed out, is a great deal of ranting and political theory. Well, it's Mr Hoff's right, I suppose, just as it's my right to say that if it's a primer on Taoism you seek, don't bother with this book- either get another copy of "The Tao of Pooh" (which is simply splendid) or buy another book on Taoism ("365 Tao" is a good one, IMO).
on March 17, 1998
Wow! What a difference 10 years makes. There were inklings of Hoff's bitterness in his first book, 'The Tao of Pooh,' but 'The Te of Piglet,' lets it all hang out. Hoff harangues against everyone, the media, teachers, feminists, scientists and Western society in general, while placing Chinese society on a pedestal as the epitome of Enlightenment. If we could all just be like the Chinese, or alternatively like the Native Americans, all our problems would go away. All of this seems so un-Tao like. Unlike his first book, he uses very little material from Winnie-the-Pooh series, and when he does, it is often in fictional dialogue between him and the characters. He also draws a lot more material from other sources such a Mark Twain and Thoreau. Mostly he uses the analysis of Tao to justify his own views, at one point reinterpreting passages commonly considered to mean something totally different than what Hoff intends. Hoff really has nothing new to say unless you want to hear his views on how we are destroying the environment, no argument here from me, but is this really the forum for it. What all this has to do with Piglet and Te is unclear. Then to go on and state that if we all follow the Way, all are environmental and societal problems will disappear. A nice sentiment, but a little childish. Isn't that the Tao of Way? Maybe. I highly recommend you read 'The Tao of Pooh' and ignore this book.
on October 31, 1998
This book was a major disapointment. Instead of building upon the foundation that was laid down in The Tao of Pooh, the author gets too emotional and rants and raves about the evils of the western world. However there still are many nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout the text. The poem included by Ko Hung is the most profound thought I have encountered in any text about Taoism thus far, and I am very gratefull the author included it here. However, the authors anger at the western lifestyle just gets in the way of his original message of contentment and happiness. Other authors such as Deng Ming-Dao, or Lao-Tsu himself are much better examples of pure Taoist thought. There is great wisdom in the author's book, it just takes too much time to sift through the anger to find it. Don't get me wrong The Tao of Pooh was groundbreaking but Piglets message of the virtue of the small in this book gets swallowed up by the authors anti-western attitudes.
on October 18, 1999
I was first introduced to the Tao through Hoff's "The Tao of Pooh". It opened my eyes to a world that I did not know existed. My disappointment in "The Te of Piglet" was equally great. I expected a treatise that dealt with Te in the same manner Hoff dealt with Tao. Instead I found it to be not much more than a personal platform from which Hoff could vent his anger and frustrations. As a scientist, I found many of his remarks to be insulting. Scientists are not out to merely catalog and pigeon-hole the world into a set of neat facts, but to understand the universe as an integrated, harmonious system. Hoff's condemnation of everything he personally does not like is not very much in keeping with the Taoist philosophy of "accept everything, reject nothing".
on May 4, 2002
I don't mean to be an Eeyore here, and I certainly don't mean to be critical, but I had trouble figuring out exactly what this book has to do with Taoism. One of the central themes I've found in Taoist and Buddhist approaches to life is that criticizing and rejecting things is a sure-fire route to unhappiness. Many of the passages in this book seem to have more to do with Dennis Miller rants than with Taoism. I found myself becoming a little more tense, critical, and rejecting reading it, in stark contrast to the reactions I have when I meditate or read Taoist or Buddhist literature. Reaching Balance is not achieved by criticism, but by acceptance and gentle redirection.
on January 23, 2001
I loved the Tao of Pooh. I love Piglet. But I didn't love the Te of Piglet. This was a case of taking a great thing too far. My advice to Hoff is to write another, deeper, continuation book about the Taoist ways of Pooh bear and, as Milne did, leave the loveable cast of characters as just that, a cast of characters.