I read this in a doctor’s waiting room when I was all of 18 years old, in 1982. The year before I had seen Sizwe Bansi is dead in Ashland. Nothing on earth had moved me like that. The idea of a writer who could do such a thing – such bloody, piss covered, vibrant madness and craft — Athol Fugard, I thought, was my hero. Indeed, I doubted he walked, if asked then I am sure I would have insisted the man simply floated, perhaps propelling himself with soft jabs of a pen. So, sitting there…when I saw this in the New Yorker…an interview! – I had to read it. I am now 44; I think of it almost every day.

(from The New Yorker, Dec 20 1982, Profile by Mel Gussow)

Fugard has a ritualistic mental exercise of thinking of ten beautiful things. He explained, “When I reach the end of a day that has seemed pointless and stupid, I then work through it again, minute by minute, to find out whether even in peripheral vision I saw things that celebrated life.”

I said I couldn’t think of ten beautiful things about any single day, and he said, “You’re wrong. You haven’t tried. How many beautiful things have you seen while we’ve been talking?”

Thinking back through our meal, I mentioned the waiter from Cape Town who recognized him as an old friend.

“That’s one,” Fugard agreed. “I’ve got four.” Indicating a nearby table, he said, “Two people thought they were in disagreement about something. One had a fist and was doing this.” He made a fist and waved it in the air. “The other person put out an open hand and did that” – he opened his own fist – “and the fist relaxed. My third: A woman accidentally dropped a napkin on the floor and somebody at the next table picked it up, and it was soon obvious that she was nervous about encountering a stranger. All he did was hold up the napkin, look at her, and smile, and it was obviously a moment when she passed from suspicion to a point of trust. My fourth is the plant behind you.”
I whirled around, and asked, “Has it been growing since we’ve been sitting here?”

“It’s alive!” He said.

Today I thought of this when I was doing my customary browse of Counterpunch (there’s a great peice by Fidel Castro today! Check it out). Cockburn’s “Website of the Day” led simply to this video, which I enjoyed immensely. I have not seen Arlo onstage in many years. Twenty! But this brought a huge smile to my face, and perhaps it can go on your list of ten, for the day…


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    • jessical on October 13, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    …is addictive, but if I excrete any I’m afraid it will smell really bad.  So I put up things like this….

  1. What a great idea.

    It reminds me of an exercise I love to do.  I make a list of at least 50 things I have gratitude for.  I write them out and number them.  As I write each one, I feel my feelings of gratitude for that item.  Maybe it will be the turning of the leaves.  Maybe it will be my dog.  Maybe it will be the 8 Fold Path.  It could be anything that makes the list.

    Making the list helps to get creativity flowing, also relaxes, also is a good antidote to fearfulness.  Sometimes, when things are going well for me, I can write the list in a short while (say 20 minutes or less).  Sometimes, when things are going badly, it takes me much, much longer (45 minutes or more).  The difference in time is a rough measure of how far from being grounded and present I am.  But by the end of the exercise, I’ve regained my composure.

    • pfiore8 on October 13, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    on Broadway, sitting enthralled by Fugard’s Master Harold… and the Boys.

    Zakes Mokae (Sam), Danny Glover (Willy), and Lonny Price as Hally.

    The moment I remember and it stays with me: Hally spitting in Sam’s face. But not the ugliness of the moment. But the beauty there, in Sam, as he tells Hally:

    “You’re ashamed of so much. Now that’s going to include yourself.”

    He refused to wear Hally’s hatred or to be defined by it. Sam isn’t defined by color or circumstance or class. Sam defines himself.

    And another moment incredibly important to me: Arlo Guthrie. My very first interview of a star. i was 26 i think. As I walked up the stairs to the dressing room, it hit me: i’m here to do my job. i have a right to be here. he didn’t have white hair then, but it was more steel and grey. but still long and curly.

    thanks jess. for me, no accident that you should pair these together.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy

    • Valtin on October 13, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Whether its political excess or many points of beauty, everything possible to be believed is an image of the truth.

    That’s what keeps me going (w/tip of hat to my first “mentor”, W. Blake).

    Thanks for the song from Arlo. I still listen to Alice’s Restaurant when I want to lift my spirits.

  2. with a friend who was grumbling about futility and pointlessness and what she was placed on the planet for and it actually encouraged me because it seems like a lot of people in my age group (40’s)are already zombies. I gave her some trite observation about dealing with boredom something to the effect that when she is on her way out the door to the great “where ever” she will wish she had cherished even moments of boredom.

    I went out to the swamp today to take egret pictures got home and realized  all  the pictures were crap and I have to plot a strategy for sneaking up on them. So if I have nothing worth  else worth breathing for tomorrow I already have my “thing” of the day. I am assuming my silly tricks for finding pleasure in the day are what most ordinary folks  who are still conscious employ. The kids, the grandkids, the dogs, the cats, the flowers the fresh smell of air after the rain.

  3. but even if I did, I probably couldn’t capture what I’ve been looking at all day.

    One wall of my office is windows. Its a dark rainy cold day up here in the tundra. And soon everything will be black and white.

    But today, the trees outside my window look like they’re on fire – the brightest yellow I ever remember seeing. Maybe its the backdrop of the dark rainy sky.

    Haven’t gotten any work done all day. LOL

  4. ever pub’d here…

    Attention God, by geomoo

    • kj on October 14, 2008 at 4:18 am

  5. as i was walking my dog and waiting for her to poop, i started counting up the lizards in the back yard, little babies that came right to my big toe and i had to make sure my dog did not step on, and then the scurrying up the trees and in the leaves of the mama  and papas…then a hummingbird landed on a tree branch right next to my nose, pretty with green and black. i thought about all my failed hummingbird pics from inside the house and wondered why the heck i did not have my camera. tiny thing, but pleased moi.:)  

  6. you start to count to ten the amount of  real celebrations mount. It seems to open your heart to the real meaningful things the ones that make us care. For today my ten.

    Morning sunrise gorgeous

    cranky old locksmiths face, craggy beautiful his wifes sanity

    frantic squirrel who found his nuts in my demolished yard

    the dirt I surveyed in yard

    Alice my 18mo. old neighbors greeting and love of said dirt

    the people I read here

    my husbands basic humanity and vulnerability

    the wind in my face while bike riding

    Mount Tabor out my window crystal clear

    carrots and eggs

    Each day we meet the meaning of life and sometimes it’s hard to see it through the smoke we create.A loaf of bread a dirty joke, a human face, nature in it’s splendor all are part of what we take in each day. I met a bug today he was cool.


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