Taylor And Camus Meaning Of Life Philosophy Essay

Why and how we are here is not the only question that human beings seek an

This paper discusses how the book “the Tao Of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff relates the concept of Taoism to the characters from the Winnie The Pooh by A A Milne and their application to life and therapy.

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In The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff utilizes characters from Winnie the Pooh to attempt to explain the fundamentals of Taoism. By observing Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Tigger, and Pooh, it is easy to see that the actions of the character Pooh best describe Taoism. One of the most important principles of Taoism used in the book is the uncarved block. Hoff uses the characters from A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books to illustrate and explain the basics of Taoist philosophy, showing how Pooh himself is the epitome of the Taoist thinker, enjoying life with simplicity but not stupidity. The author explains that Taoists try to appreciate, learn from, and work with whatever happens in life, whereas, in contrast, Confucianism attempts to impose order, and Buddhists see life’s tribulations as obstacles to be overcome before achieving Nirvana. He describes how Tao is the Way, which can be understood but not defined, and illustrates key elements of Tao such as P’u, the uncarved block, and Wu wei, going with the flow. In case you should think that this book is altogether too simplistic, I should add that Hoff touches on the writings of Lao-Tzu (author of the Tao Te Ching), Chuang-tse, the poet Li Po, and other Taoist philosophers, giving his own interpretations of the passages. Hoff shows how Pooh best explains the Uncarved Block. The principle of the Uncarved Block is that things that are simple contain their own natural power, power that can be spoiled and lost when overcomplicated. Using the characters he shows how our lives can be sabotaged by errors in thinking and how it can be prevented. Hoff uses Rabbit to show when you are racing through life you can miss out on the valuable things that make up life itself. We seem to jeopardize ourselves by thinking too much of the self. Owl is used to show that when trying to find underlying meaning for everything you overcomplicate it. Hoff uses Piglet in the sense that Piglet is always scared and as a result scared to try things, if Piglet wouldn’t dwell in worry, he would accomplish more, and find happiness .Sometimes staying less in your head is an advantage. Hoff goes on to show that the character of Eeyore is always depressed and dwells in negativity. If he abstained from this life would be completely different. Now finally we come to Pooh. The author exemplifies how Pooh doesn’t stay in worry, nor is he over-analytical, he stays in the spontaneous. As a result of staying in “the way” he finds everything goes its own course and works out as a result of his “non-action”. Pooh goes with the flow of nature and doesn’t interfere. He leads a life of simplicity and one free of worry. This is a perfect reflection of someone who follows the Tao. I think this is more or less a basic explanation of Tao and how to apply it to our lives by modeling out behavior in a likewise manner. There aren’t any obscure references here only face value application. The use of the cartoon characters that we all are familiar with is a very useful strategy. It is a way of explanation that transcends all racial, sexual, gender barriers. For example, we won’t try too hard or explain too much, because that would only Confuse things, and because it would leave the impression that it was all only an intellectual idea that could be left on the intellectual level and ignored. (p. 10) He uses each chapter of the book to teach a new principle of the Uncarved Block of Taoism. In each chapter he tells a Winnie the Pooh story and then explains how it relates to Taoism. Hoff writes a chapter teaching how cleverness does not always help, but it sometimes destroys things and is the reason that things do not work out. Hoff teaches that the Taoist believe that if you understand Inner Nature it is far more effective than knowledge or cleverness. He uses a poem called “Cottleston Pie”. The poem explains how things just are as they are and how people try to violate these principles with their everyday lives. There is also the story of Tigger and Roo. Tigger tries to be what he is not and as a result everything goes wrong and he always ends up getting stuck in a tree. Hoff also explains that working with Nature is best in the sense that you do not screw things up with a story about Eeyore getting stuck in the river. Everybody had been trying to think of clever ways to get Eeyore out of the river when Pooh said that if they just dropped a big stone into it, then it would just wash Eeyore ashore. He did it without even thinking, because thinking would complicate things, and of course it worked. Pooh worked with Nature and things worked out for him. As you can see, Hoff uses many different Winnie the Pooh stories to teach the uncomplicated ways of the Taoist. The only argument that Hoff really presents is whether or not the Taoist way is the best way and whether or not it really works. When you look at it from the point of Pooh and the stories he is a part of, you are able to see how easily the Taoist ideology fits snuggly into Pooh and his world. Obviously if you do not believe that cleverness and knowledge are not important, then you will not agree with anything Hoff is saying, but he makes you believe in showing you how it always works out with Pooh. He argues whether or not cleverness and knowledge really are important. For example, it can be explained in the story when Eeyore gets stuck in the river. Clever ways do not work, but Pooh’s simple way always seem to work surprisingly well. Hoff also argues how the Taoist believes that over exhausting ourselves needlessly only works against us. He uses Rabbit to explain this. Quite simply, Rabbit is always in a hurry, he is the very face of stress itself. Hoff explains these so called creatures like a shadow. Shadows are always rushing along. They are also always trying to lose their shadows. They try to run from them not realizing that they cannot, that they are one and the same.

Hoff argues that by just sitting down and enjoying a nice sunny day, like Pooh would do, you can complicate things. You do not get the full fulfillment of your life. There is the argument that this is just using examples to match the conclusions that we have already come to. I believe however, that one cannot free himself of the weight of our foolish ways until we have exposed that fallacy and this is a vehicle to do that without feeling condescended by an authority figure that many associate with other comparative theories. Case and point Hoff’s adaption of Winnie the Pooh to Taoist philosophy is brilliant and yet never strays from its humility. Through this I can now see how the field of psychology, is a chaotic discipline much more suited to the Taoist approach of going with the flow-the Wu wei, then against it. In Hoff’s description of A A Milne’s characters I was able to see myself trying to be like the Owl, while actually being a combination of the Rabbit and the pessimistic Eeyore. Hoff has shown me how the ideal is to be a simple character such as Pooh himself, accepting life, work, and other people as they are rather than trying to impose order on them. I now seek to accept and move with events as they occur, preferring not to try to impose change nor viewing changes it as an obstacle to be overcome. It all comes down to acceptance and will. When you yield to the flow you find that it goes along with the grain of your life instead of against it. This approach spills over into every aspect of life, keeping them simple, letting nature direct the flow as it were.


swers to as they also question the reason for being on earth. All these questions are in a bid to understand life. Both writers of literature and philosophers seek the meaning of life variously. It so seems that the meaning of life is such a complex subject that answers are sought in all possible fields.

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Philosophy focuses on answering the questions that are beyond the human understanding. It is for this reason that philosophers come up with ideas that could try to answer these questions. They look for reality in everything and in this case in the meaning of life. All views are critically analyzed in order to come up with conclusive and substantive results. Albert Camus is no philosopher but he contributes in philosophy by expressing himself in writing an obvious way to relay his thoughts about life. This act of engaging in deep thoughts about life is philosophical no wonder James Taylor refers to Camus’ work The Myth of Sisyphus. The difference in the two intellectuals, Camus and Taylor, is the fields in which they exercise their thoughts. While Camus writes expressively and descriptively about life as literature demands, Taylor declares his claim in precise concepts that would only require critical thinking to decipher the meaning. The two however, agree on the core meaning of life.

Taylor on one hand agrees that our lives are a reflection of Sisyphus. We are subjected to useless and fruitless toil as seen in the way Sisyphus is “ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight” (Camus, 1955, p. 580). This according to Taylor is not only a worthless exercise but also unbiased, to think that life is meaningless. On the other hand, Taylor suggests that by being biased the meaning of life is contained in oneself. Hence, Taylor’s words that it is the responsibility that gives life meaning not the success. These words defy what most of us think about life that success determines happiness. Sisyphus is happy even though he gains no success in keeping the rock up the mountain. His happiness comes from the duty, which he gladly carries out even though when we look at it is a futile duty.

The Myth of Sisyphus is the description of Sisyphus who is living on his own inclination. He hates death and therefore puts it in chains. He also disrespects the gods because he does not heed to their words. In addition, he has an obsession for life such that he refuses to heed to calls by the gods to return to the underworld. All these aspects earns him a chastisement from the gods of pushing a large boulder up the mountain which rolls back and consequently he has to repeat this over and over again. Sisyphus does not give up but continues to bear this burden as a duty. To him the rock is all that matters hence Camus tells us “this universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile” (Camus, 1955, p.581). There is no difference with having God in one’s life. Camus uses this myth to depict that there is no God and that our impulses are what determine our destiny. His urge for us to “revolt,” to resist death at all costs and find meaning in life even in the absurdity of our activities because death is irrevocable (Camus, 33). This myth represents our lives today, which are marked with endless activities, which keep us busy day in and day out in the end they will all end as we will end up dying. When going about our businesses it sometimes occurs to us to question of the meaning of life in this disorderly world. The result is to seek meaning in everything around us including where we have based our faith.

According to Camus “Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them” (1955, p. 580). Taylor uses The Myth of Sisyphus to give us his thoughts on the meaning of life. While he agrees our lives are full of meaningless endeavors, he also adds that the meaning of life has a rationale, bearing and the consequence is permanent for a short time. However, permanency in our endeavors can have meaning if they are everlasting. Similarly, we struggle to live on our own hence we never come to the end of this struggles that to us gives us meaning to life. Unfortunately, according to Taylor we fail to recognize the supernatural power that is surpassing our abilities and our endeavors. The true meaning of life can be found inside us and it is in relation with what God thinks. God’s meaning of life is fruitless but our answers to the meaning of life have to come from the things we decide to do in life.

The two philosophical views on the meaning of life are true in the sense that life for sure has a lot of hopelessness. We toil day in and day out yet in the end we end up dying. We all have the habit of questioning the meaning of life when we lose a loved one who had achieved much in life. What we forget is that our life did not come to being through our own will. A supernatural willed for us to be living in the universe. We are often caught in our self-interests that we fail to recognize our creator and seek his purpose in our lives. Consequently, we are surrounded with discontent and suffering. The answers to the meaning of life can only be sought in the power that transcends our life. We do not have the answers even though we keep questioning and thinking that the answers are within us. Our choices in life determine whether we find the true meaning of life. For example, if we choose to seek God and his guidance we will always have contentment unlike if we choose to follow our own free will. Our free will leads to anguish, suffering and disorientation. Without God nothing is possible. It would even be wrong to state that Sisyphus was happy because all his life he never acknowledged God but sought for his own selfish gains. No wonder, he suffers the punishment for disobedience and not hearkening to the voice of the gods.

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The belief in God is not final as there will be many problems along the way but God will surely see one through those problems. Otherwise would result to endless suffering as for Sisyphus, even though he is said to have been happy he still questioned the meaning of life. He seeks for answers in the proud self instead of recognizing that power that is beyond him. It is wrong to believe we can find answers about life in ourselves when we did not give ourselves that life. God gave it to us and therefore we must consult him in everything.

Philosophy recognizes the existence of a supernatural power hence Taylor’s view would fall in my ideal right meaning of life. Taylor tries to bring out the aspect of a supernatural that transcends life therefore no man can decipher its meaning without bearing in mind God’s views.


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