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'Kindergarten' Writer Says Point Was Missed

December 21, 1991|From Religious News Service

SEATTLE — "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" continues to be at the top of the best-seller lists, but author Robert Fulghum laments that most people have missed its point.

The message of the book is not that 6-year-olds understand everything there is to know, says the 55-year-old Unitarian minister. Rather, he said, it has tried to show that kindergarten introduces us to the most profound issues of existence.

According to Fulghum, kindergarten rules are as tough to live up to as some seemingly simple spiritual teachings, such as "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Kindergarten is where we're thrust into a world of strangers and told not to hit them. It's the place where the "social contract" is hammered out.

In kindergarten, we're told to "clean up our own damn mess," Fulghum says. Where could we learn a more important ecological lesson, he asks.

Fulghum, a resident of Seattle, has come a long way geographically and spiritually from his fundamentalist Southern Baptist upbringing in Texas.

In an interview, he recalled that as soon as he could, he headed for a college up north where he "drank, chased girls and skied."

Eventually, Fulghum was drawn to the open-ended spirituality of Unitarianism, combined its teachings with those of some Eastern religions and reached the conclusion that "God is immanent. God is at all places at all times. We're all sons of God."

Among the constants in Fulghum's idiosyncratic life are his wife, four children, aged 24 to 32, and a large sheet of plain white paper tacked to the wall near his writing table. He says it is the most important thing in a room decorated with everything from a sleeping Buddha to a can of Spam.

Written on the paper is Jesus' question: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"

And if that doesn't help Fulghum keep his perspective, he recalls a cartoon he once saw of a duck coming out of an egg, looking down and thinking, "I hadn't counted on webbed feet."

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