Welcome back for the third installment of my conversation with Robert Fulghum. Your love affair with Crete also goes back many years, Robert. You're very attracted to the rootedness of their culture. What else knocks your socks off besides for that wonderfully tyrannical woman who takes care of your house and lets you live in it?
Well, I keep having amazing experiences there. Where I live in Seattle, no house was ever there before my house was built and 200 years ago, only Native Americans were there. And we don't know too much about their past because they didn't have a written history. [But] we have a written record for what went on in Greece and Crete for 6,000 years. So, it's a very different environment. And they've seen an awful lot come and go so they don't get flapped at the most recent thing that's going on because it's happened before.
Maybe ten years [ago], I wanted to take up Greek dancing. I've always loved dancing. I went to a wedding. And everybody's up and what they do with their feet is really kind of amazing and all in long lines. And I thought, "There's no way I'm going to get in this." And this older lady comes over and sits down beside me and asked if I speak English. "Yes." "So, you're feeling like an idiot and a fool." "Yes." And she said, "You feel like if you get up and dance with us you're going to feel like an idiot and a fool." And I said "yes." And she said, "As long as you're going to feel like an idiot and a fool, why not dance? Because if you just sit there, we're going to know that you're an idiot and a fool." And so I got up and got in the dance.
I thought about that several years later, the first time I ever saw tango dancing and thought, "Oh man, I can't get in this. This is way over my head." And I thought about the Greek lady. And I thought, "Well, if I'm going to be an idiot, I might as well be an idiot dancing than sitting." And that got me into tango dancing. That kind of deeper, longer thought of wisdom I run into all the time in Crete. People have been thinking about being human in a fleshy, deep way for a long, long time there. And it's worked its way into the culture. Ordinary people have Socrates and Euripides and Aristotle somewhere in their minds. So, one of the reasons I like being there is because people think a lot.
And they take the long view. Tell about the older gentleman who checks you out, this rich American, and starts giving you the third degree.
In Greece, they ask the deep questions. They want to know what's important. When that old man asked me, since Americans have everything, how many grapevines I have, and how many sheep, and how many goats? Every time I said "No, I don't have any" and he looked at me and asked, "Do you have any chickens?" "No. " "Not even any chickens?" and he said, "It's bullshit that Americans have everything. You have nothing, not even chickens." And I was dismissed as irrelevant because I had nothing. He touched a nerve there, that's for sure.
He made you think.
Yeah. So, Crete" I don't want to blow it out of proportion. I think there are a lot of intelligent people where I am now. But I find the simple ability, the desire to talk about deep, serious and meaningful things there that I don't run into here. I'll be back in Crete in March and I'm really looking forward to it. I always look forward to leaving it too because it's crazy and the same thing is happening there. It's changing so much and in many ways, Athens looks like Seattle; it's not that different: same clothes, same cars, same food, same TV. We really have become so universal as a culture that it's hard to get away from it all because it's all there when you get there.
I love that you don't take yourself too seriously. You find wonder in the ordinary and poke fun with genuine affection. When you're in the mood for a book, what do you pick up?
My reading is extraordinarily eclectic. I keep the local bookstores in business sometimes because of the breadth of what I read. I'm interested in everything and I'd rather read than anything else. I don't have a TV and don't watch it, not because I think it's evil but because I'd rather read.
And the same thing with movies I like movies but don't go very much because I still would rather read. Right now I'm reading a book on the Mormon Temples of America. I'm not a Mormon but I've always been curious about that architecture. So, I've got this big, thick new book. I've got a book on astronomy. I've got a book on handguns, pistols and rifles. Not because I'm a NRA member or have ever shot a pistol in my life. But a few people in my valley, one of them is a retired law enforcement officer, and they were talking about pistols the other day. And I thought, "I don't know anything except prejudicial things about pistols, so I'm reading about pistols. And, then I've got a book on theater; I'm looking through Carl Sandberg's poems looking for something. I've got a book If Ignorance is Bliss, Why Aren't More People Happy? Here's a book I'm reading: Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado. I usually have got six or eight books in four or five piles going on at any one time. Reading is my passion and pleasure.