April 27, 2004

Robert Fulghum is Blogging from Crete


Embrace -- A painting by Robert Fulghum
Click to enlarge

My good friend and author Robert Fulghum is blogging. Well, he's a bit retro and doesn't consider what he's doing as "blogging," but rather as "NEW STORIES." No matter.

Lately he's been at the village he lives in when in Crete, and we've been getting semi-daily reports on bug racing, contessas of dubious lineage, and what he's reading. If you know Fulghum's writing, and many millions do, you might consider putting his new stories page into your toolbar favorites folder. You never know what you might find. Here's a sample:

April 19, 2004
Kolymbari, Crete, Greece
Written Sunday, April 18, 2004

BUG OLYMPICS

"So what is it you do in Crete?" People often ask me that. As if to imply that it would be boring sitting on a beach in Greece doing nothing year after year.
A funny thought, since, outside, as I write tonight, it is cold and windy and raining. And the closest beach is too rocky to sit around on, anyhow. So what do I do?

Today, for example, after attending a funeral, I sat by a fire all afternoon reading the thoughts of Epictetus, the 4th century BC stoic philosopher. Born a slave, he became famous for his lectures, which were written down by his student, Arrian, and collected into a manual, The Enchiridion. That little book, by the way, has never been out of print in more than 2,000 years.

Sample: "Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not."

Sample: "Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor what they seem to be. They are what they are."

Sample: "We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them."

Epictetus was a Stoic. And as I age I find increasing favor for their point of view. If you want to read more, get a modern translation: The Art of Living, a new interpretation by Sharon Lebell, HarperCollins 1995. There is also the Loeb Harvard Classics two-volume set in Greek and English if you want all there is of Epictetus.

That's the serious side of today's endeavors. On the other hand . . .

Last night some silly friends and I drank a little too much wine and started the Bug Olympics. The first event is the Rolling Down Hill and Walking Away contest. Each one of us found one of those little fast-crawling armored pill bugs. We touched them gently to make them roll up into a ball, and then using a piece of paper, scooped them up, held them in line at the top of an inclined cookie sheet, and let go at the count of three. The bugs rolled down and out onto the stone floor. The first bug that got up and walked away was the winner. My bug, Manolis, won 5 times in a row. Gold Medal Bug. And no harm done to the bugs, I think. (Wonder what the bugs think?)

Tonight all Greece will shut down at 8:30. The two top soccer teams will go at it in Athens. Panathinaikos and Olympiakos Piraeus. If one is not there in front of the TV, one will not know exactly what happened. And one will have nothing to talk about tomorrow. If the Turkish air force attacks Greece tonight between 8:30 and 10:30, the prime minister will say Greece cannot come to fight now. But he will say that, in two hours, half of Greece will be really mad and ready to kill, so maybe the Turks should pick another day.

I wondered what Epictetus would say about such matters, being wise and all.
Sample: "Once you have deliberated and determined that a course of action is wise, never discredit your judgment. Take a stand. Don't be cravenly noncommittal."

With that ancient philosophical admonition in mind, I went off to the Argentina Taverna to support Panathinaikos! And tried not to step on any Olympic Bug competitors as I went out the door.

Afterward. Tuesday. A 2-2 tie. Satisfying to all in that the game was played hard and well. Epictetus would have been pleased. As he said, speaking of skillful ballplayers: "None of them considers whether the ball is good or bad, but only how to throw it and catch it. For where a man has proper reason to rejoice, his fellow men have proper reason to share in that rejoicing."
N.B. -- Since I have found that whatever Fulghum is reading is well worth reading, I added the Amazon links. Fulghum does many things, but he does not surf. Nor does he have email, so furgeddaboutit.

Posted by Vanderleun at April 27, 2004 5:41 PM
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