When I was a senior in high school, the school board of our local district voted on a new requirement for graduation to add a healthful living class. The concept is that we needed arm children with concepts that they could take into the world to handle the stress and anxiety of daily life. This eventually got interpreted as a single class, required for all Seniors to take and the curricula that was selected was a book by Benjamin Hoff called the Tao of Pooh.
My high school hired a temporary faculty member, called adjunct faculty, to teach the class. She held the class in a specific room and did so all day long. There were quite a few seniors to make it though to meet the District’s requirements. So here I was, on Day 1 and sitting in this little temporary classroom, when I got passed our new book on Daoism.
Now this was a perfect storm for me. Not only was I in a stage in my life where I was seriously questioning what I wanted to believe in, what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do with my life but I was also a bit of a rebel without a clue. The District also decided to close our campus that year, due to increase thefts in the local neighborhoods, and I was only required to take two classes. Junior and Senior English. I will not explain why I had to retake Junior English, that is a long story.
So here was my schedule. Period 1 – Healthful Living, Period 2 – Teacher’s Assistant, Period 3 – English, Period 4 – English, Period 5 – Yearbook Staff, Period 6 – Open.
So when that book on Daoism landed on my desk for Period 1, and the substitute teacher started try to teach us about how to live our lives, I just went on full rebellious mode. I refused to accept anything she said, I questioned everything, I rejected everything as a personal attack on my personal religious views. I got my entire class to boycott. I held a Tao of Pooh book burning. Yeah, I was that idiot.
The principle ultimately ended up creating a compromise with me. He would give me a passing grade as along as I would agree to not show up to class ever again. Deal. I got Period 1 off, and he got some sanity back to his healthful living class. The poor lady teaching the class avoided a nervous breakdown.
This is a long way of stating that now, almost 40 years later, I finally realize that the concept of Wu Wei from Daoism is actually worth considering as a way to help you live your life. Incidentally, the concept of being like water is one of the concept in the Daoism book that I rejected! So be like water, go with the flow, be like bamboo in the wind, bend but do not break. The concept is to learn to live effortlessly. Learn to live so that you efforts and actions are natural, part of the course and do not require exertion that will break you. It is a way of living, a way to deal with stress. Something I can certainly learn to do. So as much as it pains me, I actually recommend reading Benjamin Hoff’s book now!