Three Great Things: Derek DelGaudio

The man behind the remarkable show and film In & Of Itself shares some of the things that have made his life richer.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the recent release on Hulu of In & Of Itself, a film version of Derek DelGaudio’s compelling and unique one-man show, and DelGaudio’s new book, AMORALMAN: A True Story and Other Lies (out now from Random House), the writer and performer shared some of the things that give his life meaning. — N.D.

The Reason I Jump
The Reason I Jump, the documentary directed by Jerry Rothwell, is really remarkable because of its source material, which is the book of the same name written by Naoki Higashida. Higashida is an autistic boy who wrote about his experience of life and what it means to be autistic. He somehow managed to get his inner life onto the page, and it’s really incredible. It’s an amazing book, and the documentary does a beautiful job of bringing his words to life.

After seeing the documentary, I discovered that the book it’s based on was written when Higashida was 13 years old. Seeing someone articulate their inner life in such a clear way, especially someone so young, was really inspiring. The world would be a much better place if we could all do that. As an artist, the goal is to look inward and then try to show to the world whatever one finds, to somehow reveal an aspect of our own humanity to others. The Reason I Jump was done not as art, but just as a way of expressing something very important. Higashida is speaking for an entire community, and was the first to voice what the inner life of an autistic child is like, so people standing on the outside can understand, empathize and relate in ways we couldn’t before. In a sense, it’s beyond art. It’s something far more important.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
The website The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is absolutely compelling and is one of my favorite things. It’s an ongoing project by John Koenig, in which he creates words for emotions or experiences that we do not yet have words for. The words are created using the rules of proper etymology, which makes it even more impressive. It is a sincere attempt, and it’s wonderful to see the clear intention of that.

To give you an example, one of the words Koenig coined is “midding,” which is defined as: “feeling the tranquil pleasure of being near a gathering but not quite in it — hovering on the perimeter of a campfire, chatting outside a party while others dance inside, resting your head in the backseat of a car listening to your friends chatting up front — feeling blissfully invisible yet still fully included, safe in the knowledge that everyone is together and everyone is okay, with all the thrill of being there without the burden of having to be.” There are numerous entries like this, and it’s just remarkable.

I stumbled upon The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows one day and it’s one of those things that feels like a treasure that’s just for myself, because no one really knows about it. I’m always on the search for the treasures in this world, looking behind curtains and whatnot, hoping I’ll find something amazing. Koenig has been working on The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows for years, but I found out recently that there’s book of it coming out soon. It will be nice to have a hard copy of it.

Burying Your Feet in the Sand
I intentionally didn’t decide on a third thing beforehand, but what just came to me now was: feet in sand. When you bury your feet, when you dig your feet in, letting the tops be covered so that you can lean in any direction a little bit more than you normally could.

I live in Manhattan and I don’t get to the beach ever, and I lived in Los Angeles for 12 years and never really made the effort to go to the beach there either. But I just know that this is something I enjoy and, for whatever reason, it came to me now. It’s honest, it’s natural. When you’re walking on a beach with bare feet, it’s exactly what you should be doing.

As I think more about it, there’s something about sand that’s marvelous, because it’s so many different things. It’s like a liquid and a solid at the same time. You can swim in it, but you don’t. You can also stand on it. It’s many things, but it’s one thing. To put yourself in it somehow makes you feel more of a part of the thing that you’re already a part of, and just being embraced by the world itself is comforting.

You also can’t help but be aware of the transformation that sand has undergone, is undergoing currently, and will undergo in the future. And the idea that sand can turn into glass – we don’t really talk about that enough. That some solid opaque objects turn into one clear thing that we look through every day is just really remarkable. Sand is pretty amazing stuff.

Derek DelGaudio is a writer and artist, primarily known for his highly acclaimed theater show, In & Of Itself. He served as the Artist in Residence for Walt Disney
Imagineering, and he co-founded the performance-art collective A.BANDIT. The film of In & Of Itself, directed by Frank Oz, is currently streaming on Hulu, and DelGaudio’s new book, AMORALMAN: A True Story and Other Lies, is available for purchase from all good booksellers.