(With apologies to A. A. Milne)
Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Monday,
Winnie-the-Pooh was sitting in front of his house, together with
his friend Christopher Robin. And because it was a Very Fine
Day, he was humming a little song that he had made.
It went like this:
On Monday, when the sun is hot,
I wonder to myself a lot:
"Now is it true, or is it not,
that what is which and which is what?"
He had sung that song before, but because it was indeed a Very
Fine Day, he murmured it to himself again.
"What are you singing?" asked Christopher Robin.
"A song I made myself," said Pooh proudly.
"But what is it about?" asked Christopher Robin.
"Well, you see -" said Pooh.
"I think -" he explained
"It is because -" he said.
And then he fell silent as he tried to think it out. He was never very good at thinking, being a Bear of Very Little Brain. He got up and started to pace, but that didn't really help. So he looked at the sky instead.
It was a fine spring morning, and little clouds played happily in
the blue sky, skipping from time to time in front of the sun as if
they had come to put it out, and then sliding away suddenly so
that the next might have his turn.
Pooh sat down again and thought, in the most thoughtful way he could think, until a bee flew by with a loud buzzing noise... and then he scratched his nose twice, and stood up.
"Yes," said Winnie-the-Pooh.
"Yes?" asked Christopher Robin.
"Indeed," said Pooh. And he went inside for a little something to revive himself.
When he came out again, he carried a large jar that had HUNNY
written on it. He put his tongue in, and took a large lick.
"Yes," he repeated.
"Well?" asked Christopher Robin.
"It is indeed honey," said Pooh. "I thought it was," he added. "But you never can tell," he explained.
"But what about the song?" asked Christopher Robin.
"Bother!" said Pooh, "I had forgotten about that. It all comes of liking honey so much. Now what was I thinking about?"
"You were going to tell me what the song meant, about the which and the what," Christopher Robin said helpfully.
"Oh yes," said Pooh. And he sat and thought for a moment. And after he had sat and thought enough, he asked: "Why do bees make honey?"
"Well, I don't know," said Christopher Robin. "You always said that the only reason for a bee to make honey is so that you can eat it."
"Yes," said Pooh, "Maybe. And maybe not. You never can tell with bees." He thought a bit more. "You see," he went on, "I wonder if the bees know why they make honey. I know bees, but maybe the bees don't know me, and maybe they don't know that I like honey so much."
"But how does that expain the song?" asked Christopher Robin.
"It doesn't," said Pooh.
"Ah," said Christopher Robin.
"You see," Pooh went on,"Bees do more than just make honey. They buzz. They fly. They have yellow stripes that shine in the sun and black ones that don't. Why is that?"
"I don't know," said Christopher Robin.
"And there's more," said Pooh. "Birds fly, but they don't make honey. And they don't buzz. And they don't have black and yellow stripes." He looked around, but all he could see was a pair of red robins tumbling about in the sky. "Well, most of them don't," he added.
"Of course not," said Christopher Robin. "Birds don't make honey because they aren't bees, and that's why they don't buzz."
Pooh nodded. "Yes," he said. "That's what I mean. Why do bees do what bees always do, while birds don't?"
Pooh couldn't remember when he had talked so much, or, for that matter, when he had thought so hard, so he took a large lick from his jar of honey to sustain himself. That seemed to work, so he took another lick just to make sure.
"Is that what you meant with the song?" Christopher Robin asked.
"Yes," said Pooh, and he took another lick of honey.
Christopher Robin was silent while he thought about this. The problem looked so simple, but try as he might, he could not find the answer. What was it that made bees do what bees always do? And why? It was a Very Good Question.
"I know," said Pooh, "We'll ask Owl." He got up. "If anyone knows anything about anything," he said, "it's Owl who knows something about something," he said, "or my name is not Winnie-the-Pooh," he said. "Which it is," he added, " so there you are."
And so they did. The sun shone bravely, and a copse which had worn its firs all the year round seemed old and dowdy now beside the new green lace which the beeches had put on so prettily. Through copse and spinney they marched, down open slopes of gorse and heather, over rocky beds of streams, up steep banks of sandstone into the heather again, and so at last to the Hundred Acre Wood. For it was in the Hundred Acre Wood that Owl lived.
Finally they arrived at Owl's house, and they climbed up the great branch that led to Owl's front door. Underneath the knocker there was a notice which said:
PLEZ CNOKE IF AN RNSR IS REQID
The notice had been written by Christopher Robin, who was the only
one in the forest who could spell; for Owl, wise though he was in
many ways, able to read and write and spell his own name WOL, yet
somehow went all to pieces over delicate words like MEASLES and
Pooh pulled the knocker, and then he pulled it again to make sure. "Owl!" he called, "We require an answer! It's Pooh and Christopher Robin!" And the door opened, and Owl looked out.
"Hello, Pooh," he said, "Hello, Christopher Robin. How's things?"
"Strange and Confused," Pooh said, "because we are looking for the answer to a Very Good Question. So could you very kindly help us?"
"I will try," said Owl, "why don't you come in?" And so they did.
"Well," said Owl after they had sat down, "what is
the Question that you require an answer for?"
"Pooh was singing this morning," Christopher Robin explained, "about how is which and why is what, didn't you, Pooh?"
"What is which and which is what," Pooh corrected helpfully.
"Oh, yes," said Christopher Robin. "Anyway, we thought about it, and Pooh wondered why bees do what bees always do, while birds don't?". He looked at Owl to see if he'd understood all that, but Owl was silent, a thoughtful expression in his huge round eyes. "I mean, what is it that makes a bee a bee, and a bird a bird," Christopher Robin went on, "and why?"
Owl nodded slowly. "I see," he said, "Existentialism."
"Ekstalizzum? What does that mean?" asked Pooh. "For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me."
"It means wondering about Life, and yourself, and why you live the way that you do," said Owl.
"As long as it means that, I don't mind," said Pooh humbly.
Owl was silent for a moment. "It has to do with ones Purpose in Life," he said then, "and with Destiny."
"With what?" asked Pooh.
"With Things that you Want to Do. With -"
"I don't understand that," said Christopher Robin. "Do you mean that bees do what bees always do because they want to?"
"Not precisely," said Owl. "You see, it's rather that bees do what bees always do because they are bees, but they are bees because they want to be bees. To be a bee or not to be a bee, that's the Real Question."
Pooh sighed. "Now I am definitely Confused," he said.
"It means," Owl repeated, "that bees are bees because that is what they want to be."
Pooh thought about this for a moment, trying to sort out the bees and the be's in his head. Then he slowly nodded.
"Do you see?" Owl asked.
"Not at all," said Pooh.
"I think I understand," said Christopher Robin. "Do you mean that everyone is who he wants to be, and does what he wants to do?"
"Exactly," said Owl.
"But that would mean," Christopher Robin went on, "that you could make a choice, and decide who you want to be."
"Precisely," Owl said.
"Everyone, Owl?" asked Pooh. "Nobody ever asked me if I would like to be somebody else," he went on. "Or asked me if I would like to be myself," he added.
Owl looked at Pooh for a moment. "Are you very sure?" he asked.
"I think I am sure," said Pooh. "I don't think I have forgotten... Although you never know with Bears of Very Little Brain."
"Well then," said Owl, "I will ask you. Who would you like to be?"
"I could think of something," said Christopher Robin. "I wouldn't mind being a bird. It would be great to fly and to be able to look down on everything from up there..."
"No," said Owl, "That is something that you want to do, and not who you want to be."
"Oh," said Christopher Robin.
"I would like to be a bee," said Pooh.
"Oh? Why?" asked Owl.
"Honey!" said Pooh. "If I were a bee I could go near the other bees without making them Suspicious."
"No," corrected Owl, "That is something you want to have, not who you want to be."
"Oh," said Pooh.
And then they were silent.
"This is as far as I can take you, I'm afraid," Owl said. "You probably need some time to think about it."
And so they got up and said Goodbye to Owl, and they walked back again through wood and fields. And it was not long before they reached the Six Pine Trees, where they met Piglet.
"Hello, Piglet," said Pooh.
"Hello, Piglet," said Christopher Robin. "Where are you going?"
"I am on my way to Rabbit," explained Piglet, "because I thought it would be nice to have some Company."
"But now you have us for Company," said Christopher Robin.
"That is true," said Piglet, "so I might as well stay with you."
"We were just on our way to Poohs house," Christopher Robin explained. And so they walked on together.
"Piglet," Pooh said suddenly, "Would you like to be
anyone else? Or would you rather to be Piglet?"
"What do you mean?" said Piglet.
"Suppose that you could choose who you wanted to be," explained Christopher Robin, "who would you choose to be?"
"Oh, I don't know," Piglet said. "It is not easy to be a Very Small Animal. Often it is even a little Anxious," he went on. "But then again, there are not many Fierce animals here in the forest, and if there are, they don't seem to be Fond of Pigs." He thought for a moment. "I have never met one, at least," he added.
"Would you like to be Rabbit?" asked Christopher Robin.
"Well, no, not really," said Piglet, "Being Rabbit is nice enough, I suppose, but there are all those relatives to deal with."
"Would you like to be Kanga?" Pooh tried.
Piglet thought for a moment. "No," he said, "Kanga is a Large Animal, although not a Very Large Animal, but I don't think I will ever get used to all that jumping."
"Piglet," said Pooh, "would you like to be me?"
"Could I, Pooh?" Piglet said with awe.
"I don't know," Pooh replied, "but Owl seems to think so."
Piglet thought about it for a moment. "I'm not sure," he said. "I would no longer be a Very Small Animal. But then, I wouldn't have you for a friend. So I think I'd rather be me."
"Piglet,"Pooh said solemnly, "I am Touched."
They walked on in silence. The sun was golden yellow in the sky, and it was slowly getting warmer. Christopher Robin looked up when a bee came buzzing by.
"I have been thinking," he said, "and it seems to me that Owl is right. If you really stop and Think, we don't know of anyone else we would like to be. And if we think we do, it's because we want to do something or want to have something." He stopped and looked around him. "So We All Are Who We Want To Be."
Pooh scratched behind his ear. "How?" he said. "And Why?" he added.
"I don't know," said Christopher Robin. "But if we could choose, and if we really Thought about it, then we would probably choose to be ourselves."
Pooh was silent as they walked on. He felt that Christopher Robin was right. "But how that can be is beyond a Bear of Very Little Brain," he thought."
"Except maybe Eeyore," Piglet said.
"What do you mean?" said Christopher Robin.
"Well," Piglet said, "Eeyore is always Gloomy and Sad, even if there is nothing to be Gloomy and Sad about."
"Yes, that is true," said Christopher Robin, "sometimes I think that he likes to be Gloomy and Sad, although I can't imagine why."
"You mean," said Piglet slowly, "that he likes to be Eeyore?"
"Yes, he does," answered Pooh. "I don't know why but I am sure, and there it is."
Christopher Robin nodded. "I think you're right," he said, "but I don't know why either."
"But why did you ask?" asked Piglet. "It seems to me that the question about who you want to be is rather Unimportant. After all, we all are Who we are, and that is the way it is."
"That's the whole point," explained Chistopher Robin, and he told about the song that Pooh had made about the Why and the What and how they had asked Owl what it really meant.
"Yes," Piglet said after Christopher Robin had finished, "I you look at it that way..."
"I think we do," said Pooh.
"Then the answer is Obvious," said Piglet. "If we all are who we would choose to be if we were given a choice, then we probably did choose to be who we are."
"I do not remember choosing to be me," said Christopher Robin.
"Me neither," said Piglet. "But I feel that it's more than just a Coincidence."
"I remember something," said Pooh suddenly.
"You do?" asked Piglet.
"What do you remember?" asked Christopher Robin.
"That it's lunchtime," said Pooh.
And they went home for it.
This is a work of parody. The characters depicted herein are (c)
1954 by A.A. Milne (1882-1956). Portions of this work have been
paraphrased from "Winnie-the-Pooh", Dutton's Children's
Books, reprinted 1988.
No copyright infringement is intended with this work.