Just a little black raincloud

More and more I find myself drawn to the great thinkers. My children have recently reminded me of the wonders of A.A. Milne, and so I would like to share some of my recent readings with you.

As you may recall, Edward Bear (or Winnie the Pooh) loves to eat. Specifically, he loves to eat honey, and views his world around its creation:

“If there’s a buzzing-noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee.”
Then he thought another long time, and said: “And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey.”
And then he got up, and said: “And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it.” So he began to climb the tree

Winnie tries to get honey from the tree by climbing it, but of course this exercise is a failure as Pooh crashes into a gorse-bush. So with the help of his friend Christopher Robin, Pooh covers himself with black mud, lays hold of a balloon and tries to float into the air to the honey tree, disguised as a little black raincloud. After all, everyone knows that a raincloud doesn’t like honey – no, not a bit.

Pay no attention to little me

As the bees encircle the bear, Pooh concedes to Christopher Robin that his approach may not be working; after all, you never can tell with bees. Ultimately, the escapade ends in disaster as the balloon bursts and Pooh and Christopher Robin run for their lives from what I suppose was a maddened hive of africanized honeybees.

Was Pooh wrong to desire honey? No, this is the very nature of being a stout bear. Milne provides us with few answers:

Isn’t it funny
How a bear likes honey?
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I wonder why he does?

The real question is whether Pooh’s strategy was a wise one. Disguises rarely work, as even a Bear of No Brain at All realizes. I have to admit that I am sometimes tempted to disguise myself when trying to get what I want, whether by downplaying my Mormon-ness amongst the gentiles or by up-playing my rebelliousness amongst the Mormons. But the truth of the matter is that I’m not fooling anyone, any more than Pooh was able to fool the honeybees with his raincloud disguise. Hiding true intentions will not trick our opponents — political, religious or other — into letting us get our way, and it seems to me that attempts at subterfuge or misdirection have the potential to anger people more than honesty about our stated aims. Bears love honey, and the only reason Pooh is pretending to be a raincloud is to get that honey and eat it.


  1. Interesting thoughts. Shamefully cynical me, I immediately started looking for the target of the post.

    I think disguises do work — people use them successfully all the time. They just don’t work when they’re shallow and come off easily (as I’ve seen with Mormons doing missionary work).

    The other thing is that as long as Pooh was going for the honey, the bees we’re going to try to sting him, disguise or not. It’s not as though the disguise hurt his chances, it just made him look foolish.

  2. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    In rising above the Little Black Raincloud approach, is there still room for telling all the truth, but telling it slant?

    Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise

    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind —

    E. Dickinson

  3. What really stood out to me in that passage is the ego-centric nature of Pooh. He believes that the only reason for bees to make honey is for him to eat – naturally. I think we humans tend to see the world this way more than we like to admit.

  4. “I am sometimes tempted to disguise myself when trying to get what I want, whether by downplaying my Mormon-ness amongst the gentiles or by up-playing my rebelliousness amongst the Mormons.”

    I feel this too, sometimes, and it leads me to grow my hair long. In all seriousness, unfortunately, I’ve noticed that “what I want” is usually very prideful: to impress, to be the center of attention, to fit in. The Lord doesn’t fall for disguises, though, and usually people don’t either.

  5. Researcher says:

    Was Pooh wrong to desire honey? Well, you know what Odgen Nash said:

    … no bee has stung me yet but I always think that every bee I meet, and I meet a lot of bees, is going to,
    And so I am ridden through life with bees in the saddle and stirrup,
    So you take honey if you want, but I’ll take maple syrup.

  6. Notice that Pooh gets the honey in the end. Singleness of purpose pays off.

  7. Just finished the book with my children tonight. It was delightful. I think we have a print copy somewhere but the fact that you get a free copy of it with iBooks is what caused us to read it.

    We have some other Pooh books that are produced by Disney. They are utter crap. For example, two of them are entirely different books yet use the exact same illustrations on each page. This caused me to question my sanity for a while. The first time I read the second book to my children I kept thinking, “I could swear that we’ve read this before but the story was completely different!” Then a few days later they brought me the first one to read again. I wondered if the book was laced with drugs or something. Finally I managed to have both books in hand at the same time and was able to confirm that they simply reused the illustrations from one (or perhaps from several other books that I don’t own) for the second.

  8. So many possible applications. I think I will use this at some point in the future.

  9. Loved this post!

    I also think I wear a disguise in a similar sense. I think this is in part because I naturally tend to push myself into exclusion from the group by pushing against the group. This behavior is not a function of the particular group, but a function of me generally liking the feeling of being an “outsider.”

    I don’t feel this is disingenuous though, quite the opposite really. But it likely does appear as a disguise.

  10. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a bear.

  11. Jessie T. says:

    Every day it seems that we teach our children how to wear disguises. We teach them these things we do to cover up our true desires. They must wear the pious disguise at church. They must share with their friends if they want to keep those friends. They must sit quietly, raise their hands, and listen to the teacher in school. The Id vs. Ego struggle is a constant for children (and for some adults). But if we want to live in a civilized society we must put on these disguises. Maybe that’s why it’s so important to find someone who you can “be yourself” with. Not that you’re acting on all of your basal desires, but that you’re able to remove the mud and balloon and songs about rainclouds and just eat the honey.

  12. Interesting observations – something I’ve thought about myself in regards to Satan’s encouragement for Adam and Eve to “RUN AWAY!!” after they’d partaken of the fruit. I think most people (myself included) find a lot of ways to hide in any situation, including hiding from ourselves…

  13. #12 – I think you’re confusing Monty Python and the Holy Grail with the endowment film. Both are memorable, so it’s understandable.

  14. I wear clothes not because I am ashamed of my naked body, but because others are.

    A disguise is the habit of both the coward and the self-confident, though only the latter can wear it comfortably.

  15. Lol, Ray!

    I just had some tenants who know there is no smoking allowed in the house decide to smoke indoors anyway and think I’m not going to know. How childish and futile! Next my son decided he’s going to drink alcohol and also think somehow that I’m not going to know. I realized in that context that my own pathetic attempts to appear different than I truly am are equally transparent. How much better to be an honest bumbler than to pretend perfection! How much easier it is to lose our vain conceits when we realize how threadbare our excuses and misdirections are!

    Being a parent is so instructive to me mainly in that it shows up my every weakness, and it points out by example my every idle silliness. How indulgent my Heavenly Father has been all my life with my idiocy! How can He have so much patience? I hope my own patience can grow by His example.

  16. By the way, I love the original Milne Pooh and loathe and deplore the horrible Disney travesties.

  17. Been reading The Tao of Pooh, Evans?

  18. I enjoyed your post, nice thought.

    I’m looking for a Steve Evans that was a missionary in Uruguay about 40 years ago. If you are that Steve Evans please contact me at eight zero one nine four four four two seven nine so I can send you details of the reunion.

  19. Wow, Steve has really aged well.

  20. nat kelly says:

    I disagree that direct, open action is always the best. Sometimes subversion is the only successful way to accomplish your goals. And anything like being a spy feels way more awesome.

    I think Pooh just needed to draw up his plan of action a little better. I bet I could have talked the bees into giving me the honey. Or at least have provided sufficient distraction to be able to take it when they weren’t looking. Those mean bourgeois bastards, keeping all the honey for themselves.

  21. You know, I really thought this was going to be a discussion of Elijah and his little cloud.