Back in September I wrote about “Authors I want to own“, inspired by Eva’s “Assembling my Atheneum” series at A Striped Armchair. Thinking about this topic some more, I realized that for me it is not so much about wanting to own all the books by a given author as feeling that their writing speaks to my soul. I certainly enjoy owning books by these authors, but I do not necessarily have a drive to collect all their works. As I said in my “Authors I want to own” post, the authors who speak to my soul are those “whose writing is delicious, whose books resonate deeply with me, who address grand themes in amazing ways, and who I know I might want to read over again.”
To begin this series, I’d like to write about Robert Fulghum. He writes mostly non-fiction and is perhaps most famous for All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. While some of his books consist of loosely connected essays and others are more focused on one theme, all of the ones I have read so far contain many stories from his life, presented with humorous insight into the human condition. He describes the every day people and events that enrich our lives with a light-hearted tone that conveys love for his fellow human being. Fulghum is, among other things, a Unitarian minister and a former kindergarten teacher, and I find that his observations on both the mundane and spiritual lives of humans speak right to my soul. They remind me to take the time to observe the present and to not take myself or life too seriously, while at the same time affirming my experience of the world.
Somewhat surprisingly, since I most books I read are from the library, all of the books I have read by Fulghum are ones that I own. I have read three of his books and own two more.
The ones I’ve read are: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things, Uh-Oh: Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door, and From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives.
The other two I own, but haven’t read, are: It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, and What on Earth Have I Done? Stories, Observations, and Affirmations.
He has four additional books, all of which I intend to read (and possibly own) someday: Maybe (Maybe Not): Seconds Thoughts from a Secret Life, True Love, Words I Wish I Wrote: A Collection of Writing that Inspired My Ideas, and Third Wish. The last of these is his only fiction so far, an epic novel in three books. I am curious and a bit intimidated by it, as it sounds highly unusual. However, as I have enjoyed everything I have read by Fulghum so far, I trust that I will also connect with his fiction.
I have not collected that many quotes from Fulghum, but here are a few to give you a small taste:
Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away! -from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
If you want an interesting party sometime, combine cocktails and a fresh box of crayolas for everybody. -from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
The function of ritual is paradoxical: to both anchor us to high places on the steep slopes of this world on which we are always losing our footing and to free us from the despair of being stuck in the world’s mud. -from From Beginning to End
Instead of a normal part of life, death is treated as an unexpected emergency, something that happens when the medical community fails. We always die “of something” – as though if it weren’t for that disease of accident, we could have lived on. “Old age” or “worn out” or “life completed” are concepts not found on death certificates or in obituaries. -from From Beginning to End