Things have not worked out well for the author of the book that got me started with Tai Chi…

The reason I got interested in Tai Chi in the first place was a combination of watching Kung Fu, the classic TV series starting David Carradine, in my early childhood, which primed to be receptive towards “Kung Fu” (whatever I thought that was at the time), and Star Wars with its emphasis on Eastern-influenced spiritual warriors with special powers that could be trained with a rigorous martial arts-like training programme, and then reading The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff when I was about 20.

This was the version of the book I had, The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff.

This simple book combined a nostalgic look back at the Winnie the Pooh books by A.A.Milne from my childhood, which I loved, together with the basics of Eastern philosophy. And somewhere in the pages there was a single mention of a martial art that embodied the best of both, called “T’ai chi ch’uan” (as it was always written back then). That lead me to my first Tai Chi class, and I was hooked from the first minute I tried it. There was no Internet back then – you had to discover martial arts classes by looking at notice boards, that were usually found in health food shops. I remember I got a wobbly 2nd-hand VHS copy of the teachers in my first class doing their form, and I must have worn it out playing it over and over to copy the moves. What we would have given to have had YouTube back then!

The nature of politics and human affairs

Today I wondered what had happened to Benjamin Hoff, and if he was still alive, so I went off to have a look. It turns out he is still alive, but a visit to his website doesn’t reveal the comfortable life of a well respected author, sitting back on his laurels and reaping the benefits that writing one of the most popular books on Pooh and Tao should surely bring you. Instead there’s mention of vicious legal battles with publishers that has lead to a deep depression and a lack of funds. It all sounds rather sad. It’s an unfortunate and desperate station for somebody who has brought so much pleasure to people in the world, not to mention uncharacteristic for somebody who also authored a book about, “how to stay happy and calm under all circumstances”.

In addition to The Tao of Pooh, Hoff also wrote The Té of Piglet, which is also very good, and (I’ve just discovered) he wrote his own Tao Te Ching translation:

Benjamin Hoff’s Tao Te Ching translation.

His author Bio on GoodReads reads:

“Hoff was awarded the American Book Award in 1988 for The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow. The Tao of Pooh was an international bestseller and spent 49 weeks on The New York Times’ bestseller list. The Te of Piglet also became an international bestseller and spent 59 weeks on The New York Times’ bestseller list.

In 2006, Hoff published an essay on his website titled “Farewell to Authorship”, in which he denounced the publishing industry and announced his resignation from book-writing.”

If you want a summation of Benjam’s problems with the publishing industry then I’d recommend reading this essay “Farewell to Authorship” – it is very well written. It seems to have been removed from his website, but you can find it on an Internet archive page.

They say that every great career ends in failure but it’s sad to see that the author who inspired me (and presumably many others) all those years ago to start Tai Chi has ended up in this situation, but perhaps all human lives end in some kind of failure. It’s inevitable, it’s just the nature of the Tao. His books, however, remain great.

In the beginning was the Tao.

All things issue from it;

all things return to it.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 52.

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