Tao: It's pronounced "dow," like the stock market listings. Simply put, it means "the way."
In Confucian confusionism, it comes to mean "teaching," as in a knowledge that must be imparted, learned and followed. In the Lao-tzu path, it means "the source" - where understanding is found; the "uncarved block" that will become whatever it becomes.
All of which, at first glance, seems a stretch when considered in the context of Winnie the Pooh.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff uses the characters of A.A. Milne's classic stories to illustrate lessons in this ancient philosophy, a method of thought as well as a way of life.
Asian legends and teachings have long used animal metaphors or animal "guides," so is it really all that different to ascribe the traits of human thought and emotion to the creatures in the Pooh stories?
There's pessimistic Eeyore who frets and complains, insecure Piglet who hesitates and is lost, scheming Rabbit who looks out for Number One, know-it-all Owl who preaches about things he doesn't understand.
And then there's Pooh, who just is.
Pooh, the uncarved block, the childlike voice of simplicity.
It's little wonder, really, that Western thinkers have such trouble wrapping their minds around Taoism.
To understand it, you really have to stop thinking about it so hard.
Go have some honey instead.
Yeah, that's the way.
The masters know the way, and it knows them. They listen to the simple voice within, the child's voice - the still, small voice.
And a Pooh shall lead them.
This was originally published by The News Herald on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2003. I was reminded of it after a conversation with my daughter about the parts of the psyche represented by the characters in Pooh stories.