Robert Shields (May 17, 1918-October 15, 2007) was a former Minister and high school English teacher who lived in Dayton, Washington, USA, who, after his death, left behind a diary of 37.5 million words chronicling every five minutes of his life from 1972 until a stroke disabled him, in 1997. Believing that discontinuing his diary would be like “turning off my life”, he spent four hours a day in the office on his back porch, in his underwear, recording his body temperature, blood pressure, medications, describing his urination, and slept for only two hours at a time so he could describe his dreams. He once said “Maybe by looking into someone’s life at that depth, every minute of every day, they will find out something about all people.” Shields’s work now fills 94 cartons in the collections of Washington State University, to whom he donated the work, in 1999. Under the terms of the donation of his diary to the university, the diary may not be read or subjected to an exact word count until 50 years after his death. Above is a photo of a released excerpt of the diary.
mist across my chest
I was cooking a burrito over the stove in my underwear and went to close a container of La Victoria red sauce, and, by doing so, inexplicably sprayed a thin mist of it across my chest. I immediately thought, “this is the most masculine thing that has ever happened.”
keep my head down i’ll get my ten cents
my chest is a rubber band wrapped around my throat. you are plucking at the tension, strumming a song.
Eduardo Galeano, from the Book of Embraces