Winnie the Pooh and the very big brain

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 26, 2017 10:16 PM

My hatred of exclamation points is a running joke amongst both my friends and my clients. As a writer, I feel that if you need to tell someone something is important, then maybe it isn’t. If you need to shout READ ME, maybe it’s not written very well. Everyone who deals with me on a professional basis learns this very quickly. It is something I bring up often in the first conversation about a project as I seek to learn more about what they need, what they want, what they like and don’t like. I will tell them, especially if they’ve sent me drafts done prior to me, drafts littered with exclamation points, that we can do better. The words should be exciting and powerful and compelling enough that when someone reads them they get all of the wow without needing the scream at the end. Without needing the “!”

Writers who resort to exclamation points, in my humble opinion, are lazy. The exception - and there is one - is something that’s purposefully tongue in cheek. The other exception - so there are two - is email, text, and social media communication. These latter are often in place of a phone call where the person or persons on the other end can hear your voice inflection; can tell if you’re joking or having fun. Exclamation points in emails, texts, and social media serve, then, as stand-ins for emotion. Throw in an emoticon or bitmoji and it’s a complete conversation.

Bad writing is not the only place where exclamation points presage the awfulness. It happens in film, too. The movies of Oliver Stone come to mind. His films are the cinematic equivalence of exclamation points, in my opinion. Every time I’ve seen one, I always feel like I’ve been hit in the head with a baseball bat. Pay attention. This is important. LEE HARVEY OSWALD DID NOT ACT ALONE. !!

Michael Moore’s films are like this, too. Though to his credit, he’s more open about acknowledging it.

Which leads me to Winnie the Pooh. Stay with me. I promise I’ll make a connection.

A.A. Milne, the creator and writer of Winnie the Pooh, his band of cohorts in the Hundred Acre Wood, and all of their fabulous adventures. Whether he meant to or not, Milne imbedded a fabulous philosophy inside the yellow bear as well as and sometimes even more inside his best friend, Piglet.

Winnie the Pooh was not a smart bear. He was, by his own admission, a bear possessing a very small brain. But from that brain came profound statements. 

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

There is currently something flaccid and yellow in the White House. I can’t call him a bear because it’s an insult to bears. That White House creature finds it necessary to tell everyone all the time how smart he is, how he has the best words, the best education, the most standing ovations, the highest IQ, the biggest brain.

He is the walking equivalent of a subhuman exclamation point. Every time he exclaims something absurd, trying so hard to tell us all, SHOUT AT US, that he is the best human being to ever be created, I feel rage and revulsion. And I feel sad.

Then I remember Pooh. Humble in his wisdom, confident in his place in the world. Accepted for who he is. It makes me understand what a truly big brain is. It’s honest. And that’s something to celebrate.


live out loud

Comments (1) -

11/3/2017 11:29:12 AM #

Bears are very nice people. No big brain needed to get that.

Fred Marcin United States

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