Imagination (Robert Fulghum)

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.
If your view of the world is shaped by the daily news feed from the radio and TV and social sources, you might conclude that the world is going to hell in a hurry. Every kind of violence, large and small leads the news. Death, destruction, corruption, and greed.

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  1. shinichi Post author

    All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things

    by Robert Fulghum


     Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all — the whole world — had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

     And it is still true, no matter how old you are — when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.


    Deep Kindergarten

     As I write this I am sixty-five years old. Not so old, really, but I have been around awhile. Kindergarten is a long way back there. What do I know now?

     The Kindergarten Credo is not kid stuff.

     It is not simple. It is elemental.

     The essay answers the questions asked sooner or later by every one of us who once stared out a classroom window wondering: Why am I here? Why do I have to go to school?

     We are sent to school to be civilized—to be introduced to the essential machinery of human society. Early on in our lives we are sent out of the home into the world. To school. We have no choice in this. Society judges it so important that we be educated that we must go. It is the law. And when we get to school we are taught the fundamentals on which civilization rests. These are first explained in language a small child understands.

     For example, it would do no good to tell a six-year-old that “Studies have shown that human society cannot function without an equitable distribution of the resources of the earth.” While this statement is profoundly and painfully true, a child cannot comprehend this vocabulary. So a child is told that there are twenty children and five balls to play with; likewise four easels, three sets of blocks, two guinea pigs, and one bathroom. To be fair, we must share.

     Likewise a six-year-old will not understand that “By and large it has been demonstrated that violence is counterproductive to the constructive interaction of persons and societies.” True. But a child can better understand that the rule out in the world and in the school is the same: Don’t hit people. Bad things happen. The child must understand this rule is connected to the first rule: People won’t share or play fair if you hit them.

     It’s hard to explain the cost and consequences of environmental pollution and destruction to a six year old. But we are paying a desperate price even now because adults did not heed the instructions of kindergarten: Clean up your own mess; put things back where you found them; don’t take what’s not yours.

     “The history of society is more defined by its understanding of disease than its formulation of philosophy and political theory.” True. Basic sanitation. Keeping excrement off our hands as well as out of our minds is important. But it’s enough to teach a child to use the toilet, flush, and wash his hands regularly.

     And so on. From the first day we are told in words we can handle what has come to be prized as the foundation of community and culture. Though the teacher may call these first lessons “simple rules,” they are in fact the distillation of all the hard-won, field-tested working standards of the human enterprise.

     Once we are told about these things, we soon discover we are taking a lab course. We are going to be asked to try and practice these precepts every day. Knowledge is meaningful only if it is reflected in action. The human race has found out the hard way that we are what we do, not just what we think. This is true for kids and adults—for schoolrooms and nations.

     I am sometimes amazed at what we did not fully grasp in kindergarten. In the years I was a parish minister I was always taken aback when someone came to me and said. “I’ve just come from the doctor and he told me I have a only a limited time to live.”

     I was tempted to shout, “What? You didn’t know? You had to pay a doctor to tell you—at your age? Where were you the week in kindergarten when you got the little cup with the cotton and water and seed? Life happened—remember? A plant grew up and the roots grew down. A miracle. And then a few days later the plant was dead. DEAD. Life is short. Were you asleep that week or home sick or what?”

     I never said all that. But I thought it. And it’s true. The idea was for us to have the whole picture right from the beginning. Life-and-death. Lifedeath. One event. One short event. Don’t forget.

     There’s another thing not everyone figures out right away: It’s almost impossible to go through life all alone. We need to find our support group—family, friends, companion, therapy gatherings, team, church or whatever. The kindergarten admonition applies as long as we live: “When you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together.” It’s dangerous out there—lonely, too. Everyone needs someone. Some assembly is always required.

     What we learn in kindergarten comes up again and again in our lives as long as we live. In far more complex, polysyllabic forms, to be sure. In lectures, encyclopedias, bibles, company rules, courts of law, sermons, and handbooks. Life will examine us continually to see if we have understood and have practiced what we were taught that first year of school.
     Across the course of our lives we will wrestle with questions of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies. Again and again and yet again, we will come around to the place where we came in — to that room where the elemental notions about human enterprise were handed to us with great care when we were very young.


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