What Christopher Robin Reveals About Productivity and Personhood

winnie the poohby Christina Hubbard. It was one of those movies where I looked over at my 9-year old son, still so small in the plush oversized theater seat, and I gulped back tears. His little life matters so much. He bounced a bit in his seat like Tigger because that’s what he does when he’s engrossed in a good story.

Here we are in this big black theater in the middle of suburban normal Kansas. This kid, whose only job is to have fun and learn about the world—does he know how much he matters? 

I put my arm around him and turned my eyes back to the screen. I hoped he couldn’t hear my sniffles, and I vowed to preserve the poignant lessons we were learning from the imaginative movie unfolding before us: Christopher Robin.

The Screenplay in Short

The plot begins after Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) leaves The Hundred Acre Wood, which is his world of imagination and play, and heads to boarding school. His friends Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, Tigger, Roo, Piglet, Kanga, and Rabbit remain behind, holding fast to his promise he will return often. His father passes away and at the wake, he is “deemed man of the house.” Christopher grows up, fights in the war, marries, becomes a father, and gets a job as a luggage department manager at a large company.

We no longer see Christopher Robin, the exploring creative boy, but a withdrawn workaholic faced with a weighty choice. Preserve the last days of summer and reconnect with his wife and daughter for a long-promised and desperately needed holiday in Sussex or work the weekend and figure out how to save the company by 20% without laying off his entire department and losing his own job.

Sticky Points

I won’t ruin the beautiful story for you by telling you what happens. But I will tell you two things:

  1. Winnie the Pooh (who is animated superbly and keeps Christopher cleaning up his disasters with honey), offers many a jot-worthy line and proves an unlikely fount of simple wisdom.
  2. Now, more than ever, we need stories like this to remind us: Productivity does not define a person’s value.

The Real World

In a world bent on rewarding overwork and high achievers at the expense of connection, creativity, and imagination, perhaps we don’t realize how much we opt into this mindset without even thinking.

  • We rush ourselves and even the smallest of children to multiple weekly activities under the call of well-rounded opportunities, which leave us exhausted.
  • We keep our phones on and laptops open in the name of staying connected and being available while not quite feeling “all there” in our real lives.
  • We cut off our presence to people who need us under the pseudonyms of not right now and there’s never enough “me time” while we wonder why we feel so isolated and alone.

As we ping from opportunity to commitment, we can lose ourselves in doing and forget what it means to be truly human. To get lost in the woods. To laugh. To fall asleep to a fantastic story. To feel. To color outside the lines. To listen. To do nothing on a weekend. To wonder. To sit under a tree. To play. To be.

God designed us to live with the gift of significance.

In a post-modern world where slavery still exists and technology allows us to always be working, and thus, producing, we can lose ourselves in a dehumanizing machine of more. I would compare it to Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann’s depiction of our contemporary lack of Sabbath. He likens it to serving Pharoah.

In the film, Christopher Robin’s boss Giles Winslow says, “We should be working this weekend, Robin.”

Christopher protests, “I promised my wife and daughter I’d take them away this weekend.”

Giles’ responds, “All hands on deck.”

Work is good and necessary, but at what expense to our souls?

Pooh Can Teach Us a Thing or Two

Pooh is not a mouthpiece for Christian belief by any means, but he does point us to glimpses of how to live today with an eternal mindset. Let’s look at some moments from Christopher Robin and examine the rather simple, but profound truths they speak into productivity, personhood, and the present.

We don’t have to fill every moment with busy.

A scarlet thread line runs throughout the film, first spoken by a young Christopher and later by Pooh, back to him as a reminder of what to do: “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.” Great creativity and ideas often when we are doing seemingly unproductive activities like daydreaming, imagining, and playing.

We can say thanks for the gift of today. 

Winnie The Pooh: What day is it?

Christopher Robin: It’s today.

Winnie The Pooh: My favorite day.

We can see people, not as problems, but as fellow creatures. (And if they are human, made in the image of God.) 

Upon seeing Pooh for the first time as grown-up Christopher Robin, he shouts, No, no, no! This can’t be happening! It’s stress.”

But it’s not stress. It’s Pooh.”

We have enough.

Christopher Robin: If I work really hard now, in the future our lives will be…

Evelyn Robin: Impressive? Worse? We don’t care. We want you.

We can rest in the One who knows us inside and out.

Christopher Robin: I’m not the person I used to be.

Winnie The Pooh: You saved us. You’re a hero.

Christopher Robin: I’m not a hero, Pooh. The fact is, I’m lost.

Winnie The Pooh: But I found you.

We have more power over our lives than we believe.

Evelyn Robin (Christopher’s wife): You won’t be coming to the cottage?

Christopher Robin: It can’t be helped.

Evelyn Robin: Your life is happening now, right in front of you.

We are most truly ourselves when we live unburdened by the cares of this world.

The adult Christopher Robin encounters his old pals in the Hundred Acre Wood, “Hello, Eeyore!” Eeyore pauses and sees the boy underneath the wrinkles and suit, “Christopher Robin, it’s you, playing again!”

When we celebrate small delights, we are really living big.

Christopher Robin: There’s more to life than balloons and honey!

Winnie The Pooh: [doubtfully] Are you sure?

We were made to find glory.

Winnie The Pooh: There’s always time for a smackeral of wonder.

Everyone Needs to Know This No Matter What

Life, in its harsh reality of putting productivity over personhood, tends to strip us of our sense of wonder and worth. Maybe we have not forgotten completely, we just got a little lost, like Christopher Robin.

As we exited the theater, Kyle asked, “Who’s your favorite character?”

“Kanga,” I said. She’s such a calm, reassuring mother (which I hope I am, but still have a long way to go).

“Yours?”

“Piglet.” This surprised me. In the film, Piglet is rather fearful and doubtful of his worth to the rescue plan:

Piglet: I-I think I’ll just s-stay here… Y-you don’t really need me anyways.

My son is incredibly unique and bright. He has a vocabulary beyond his years and a deeply, caring heart. But most people wouldn’t know his giftedness brings immense challenges in a society which overemphasizes staying on task instead of making forts in the woods and ranks performance way above imagination. My son’s bouncy exuberance covers up a universal question resonating in his soul: Do I matter?

Winnie The Pooh: Oh Piglet… but we DO need you…

Piglet: Y-you do?

Winnie The Pooh: [takes Piglet’s hand] We ALWAYS need you, Piglet.

Ultimately, what will save Piglet, Christopher Robin, and us, is love.

 

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September 7, 2018