Simple sermons and unassailable advice


New York: Willard Books, 1988. 196 pp. $15.95

ROBERT FULGHUM is a self-described philosopher and lives on a houseboat in Seattle, so you may not think he should be taken seriously. But there is some sanguine wisdom, if not in his philosophy, at least in his opinions.

What he learned in kindergarten was share everything, play fair, don't hit people, put things back, clean up your own mess, don't take things that aren't yours, say you're sorry, take a nap every afternoon, and so on. Sort of like George Bush before Roger Ailes got to him.

These pieces of almost unassailable advice show up between the ages of 2 and 5, and then the rest of life consists of getting around them without anyone's finding out. Fulghum says you should stick with two basic rules.

It's a nice philosophy, and we can only wonder what the world would be like if everyone shared everything and took a nap every afternoon. Fulghum also says you never outgrow your need for warm cookies and cold milk.

The basis of this fairly serious little book that preaches truth in simplicity is that you're best served by periodic self-examination - your thought, your internal rules, your face in the mirror, and what you believe to be true. Fulghum says he has forced himself to write or edit a statement of personal belief - a credo - every spring. And he recommends the practice to us all.

The book is a collection of other short essays, extremely well written with a friendly and economical prose. (Several of the essays will give you the ever-popular lump in the throat.) There are, of course, some of the time-worn homilies that show up in sermons. Fulghum has been a Unitarian minister. You must know by now that even the best hitter of them all, Ty Cobb, hit only .367 lifetime, which means he failed 2 out of 3 times; thus, please cheer up.

There are interesting bits of fact here and there. You'll learn that Charles Boyer, one of the silver screen's most famous lovers, was in real life desperately uxorious; that the word dandelion is from deut de lion, and that Fulghum thinks they're a lovely flower; that native loggers in the Solomon Islands fell trees by yelling at them to drive out the tree's spirit (then it falls over); and that a man pretending to be a wealthy foreigner in New York was cheated by only one out of 37 cabbies.

My favorite story is of the kid who hides in a pile of leaves while playing hide and seek. No one can find him. They give up. Quite sometime later, Fulghum, who has been watching from the house, has to go out and yell, ``Get found, kid!'' That happened to me once. No one found me and I remained in dutiful hiding all afternoon. Thus I learned that you can be too successful.

We will hopefully see some more from Fulghum, that is, if he's not too successful.

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