Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #19: What On Earth Have I Done? by Robert Fulghum

What-On-Earth-Have-I-Done-Ribert-Fulghum I have a secret to confess. Y’see, I have a crush on Robert Fulghum. It started about 20 years ago when I first read All I Really Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The warmth and wonder with which he approached the world was magical to me. I simultaneously wanted him to be my real father and I also yearned for him to show up one day to take me out on my first date. My brain is an awkward place sometimes.

Since I knew he was married and I hadn’t discovered what polyamory was (not that it matters now that I have, since I don’t think he is anyway), my best bet was to one day meet him and tell him how awesome and inspiring I thought he was (I would still love to do that) while in the meantime keep reading his books. I read Uh-Oh, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down On It, and Maybe (Maybe Not), falling more and more in love each time.

However, like with most crushes, time marched on and I moved ahead. Found other authors to idolize and there was a lull in his career, I think, too, where he wasn’t putting out new material regularly. It happens. However, a few months ago, I was trying to locate a particular story that had always stayed with me from one of his earlier books (about buying and giving presents when you find something you think someone will like instead of being beholden to calendar dates like birthdays and holidays to purchase things) and had the thought to check if he had any new stuff come out in the last few years.

Did he ever! I missed his fiction novel Third Wish, the compilation he edited called Words I Wish I Wrote, and other books of essays such as From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives, True Love: Stories, and What on Earth Have I Done?

Immediately, I went to my local library website and requested the most recent book of essays, What On Earth Have I Done? and proceeded to fall in love with Fulghum all over again. Here is a man who has such an intoxicating, inspiring zest for life. He shines light on little and big things, reminding us to find joy when we can, question things, explore, get to know people, remember our common humanity, and just live with our tongues firmly planted in our cheeks.

Some of my favorite essays from this books include:

“The Meaning of Life” wherein he asks a Greek professor what the meaning of life is after a two week seminar on Greek culture. The professor answers him and it is pure magic.

“The Way of Water” tells about three minor miracles that led to national groups with a mistrust of each other coming together in laughter during a water fight, and how it helped them work together towards lasting change.

“The List” of what Fulghum calls conversation lifeboats. They are pretty much awesome ice breakers such as,

  • What would you be learning – if you had the time?
  • Teach me something. Anything.
  • Who do you admire? Who admires you?
  • Do you ever have any bizarre thoughts?
  • Have you ever experienced the kindness of a stranger? How?

“Asbestos Gelos” which is all about how we can get to know people, even with a cultural or language barrier, if we use humor and creativity.

“How to Paddle a Canoe…or a Life” deals with the importance of asking for help and how it can alleviate a whole helluva lot of stress.

There are so many others that are so good that I’d be here all damn night if I wrote about all the ones I loved and liked.  But suffice it to say, it was a wonderful book and Robert Fulghum is still one of my favorite celebrity crushes and I would love to meet him one day and tell him so.  I hope he’d find it funny.

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