the only real thing
September 24, 2017
On October 13, the movie, “Goodbye Christoper Robin” opens in the United States and I can’t wait to see it. It looks to be, in-part, a bit of backstory to the books, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. I love the tender, innocent wisdom of Pooh and I delight in the unique and colorful personalities of his many friends that reside in the Hundred Acre Wood.
The author, A.A. Milne is the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh and his stories were written for and about his son, Christopher Robin. The story of Winnie-the-Pooh is tinder for the imagination, and in the early 1900’s served both as a respite, and a point of hope, to a humanity ravaged by World War I.
Sometimes the real world occludes our vision of the things that matter most in life. We need stories like Winnie-the-Pooh to give flight to our imagination, allowing us to rise above the milieu and see, by means of make-believe, those things that are most real, like friendship, hope, love and Truth.
In 1996, the London Times reported that Christopher Milne (the real Christopher Robin) had died at the age of 75. In response to that news, the poet, Czeslaw Milosz wrote, in the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh, the following anecdote on youth and age, time and eternity.
by Czeslaw Milosz
I must think suddenly of matters too difficult for a bear of little brain. I have never asked myself what lies beyond the place where we live, I and Rabbit, Piglet and Eeyore, with our friend Christopher Robin. That is, we continued to live here, and nothing changed, and I just ate my little something. Only Christopher Robin left for a moment.
Owl says that immediately beyond our garden Time begins, and that it is an awfully deep well. If you fall in it, you go down and down, very quickly, and no one knows what happens to you next. I was a bit worried about Christopher Robin falling in, but he came back and then I asked him about the well.
“Old bear,” he answered. “I was in it and I was falling and I wore trousers down to the ground, I had a grey beard, and then I died. It was probably just a dream, it was quite unreal. The only real thing was you, old bear, and our shared fun. Now I won’t go anywhere, even if I’m called in for an afternoon snack.”
I love the exchange that Milosz created between Christopher Robin and the “silly old bear.” As a child I loved the stories of Winnie the Pooh—where toys were fast friends and the backyard was a world of adventure—limited only by my imagination. To me, Milosz’s anecdote fits; giving voice to an unexplored realm in A.A. Milne’s beautiful story, where each of us are one or more of the characters in the garden.
The anecdote begins with Pooh describing the garden where he and his friends live. It is a place of little or no change, where all abide happily together. Pooh has no idea what lies beyond the garden, nor does he care. Nothing seems to change; except for the fact that he says, “Only Christopher Robin left for a moment.”
Pooh knows that his friend, Christopher Robin, went somewhere. Wise old Owl says that “somewhere” is beyond the garden, where Time begins, and he describes this unknown place as an “awfully deep well.” Pooh lives beyond Time and has no idea that Christopher Robin’s “moment” is the deep well of a lifetime (75 years), where he left the garden and entered the world of adulthood—with all of its adventure, pain, regret, opportunity, loss, mishap, gain, anger, joy, hope and love.
Currently, I am surprised to find that I am a bit like Christopher Robin was in his “moment.” I am beyond the garden of childhood innocence and unchecked imagination, and Time (note the capital “T”) is having its way with me. I, in my long trousers and graying whiskers, am free falling headlong into the unknown deep.
Yet, as I fall, I find that I am even more like Pooh, a “bear of little brain.” But it is not because I am faced with things that I don’t understand or care about. Rather, it is because I forget to live into and appreciate the things that I already know. I take for granted the fact that each day, and the moments and people that inhabit them, are precious gifts.
So here I am in the midst of my “moment.” and it all seems very real to me, but I am reminded that it isn’t. It is quite unreal. It is at this point where beyond make-believe my imagination leads me to the only real thing—the Truth. There is something beyond this vapor of a life we live. What began in a garden long ago ended victoriously on a cross and all of our “moments” were subsumed in the depths of an empty tomb.
The author of this truest of anecdotes is Jesus. In Him alone is the genuine place of love, forgiveness, relationship and “shared fun.” In Jesus Christ is found the “only real thing,” a place where Time is no more; where there are no more tears, no more regrets, no more separation and no more goodbyes—just life together, in all of its fullness, forever. A place where we can say along with Christopher Robin, “I won’t go anywhere, even if I’m called in for an afternoon snack.”
1 Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems (1931-2001), 2003, pg. 656.