To Be One in a Hundred

by Caspar Schjelbred

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To be one in a hundred at Gare Montparnasse in Paris.

What does it take to be one in a hundred?

It seems that it would be enough to raise your head, look at the world and take it in.

This would be sufficiently rare to make you stand out in any big city at any given moment. Not that standing out is necessarily something to strive for.

What I’m talking about here is a pure numbers game.

To be one in a hundred – in a given moment – means doing something that 99 other people are not doing.

At least that’s what I noticed during a week when I was teaching a workshop on the other side of Paris.

Less Dread, More Wonder

Every morning around 9 o’clock, Monday through Friday, I took the long horizontal escalator at the Montparnasse metro station to change from line 12 to 13.

In less than a minute I would see about 200 people passing by in the opposite direction (yes, I did count one morning). Only a couple of them would see me seeing them.

Most other faces seemed frozen in various expressions of dread or determination.

I thought to myself that they are missing the show – the daily terror show. And that all it takes to be one in a hundred is to raise one’s head and look at the world. And if more of us did so… it would become an altogether different show.

Less dread. More wonder.

The wonder show of the world.

I got that expression from the title of a great album by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. I don’t think he sings the actual words. He doesn’t need to. He makes you feel it.

Anyway… on the Thursday morning, thinking this for the fourth day in a row, I got my phone out and wrote the extended note: To Be One in a Hundred.

It’s an exhortation of sorts – to myself; to the workshop participants I was going to see 15–20 minutes later; to anyone, really…

To you.

To Be One in a Hundred

“Correspondance à Gare Montparnasse”
People, hundreds of faces passing by
All in different degrees of terror


Most are missing the show

Open your eyes, lift your head

Look at the world

Look at people

Be one in a hundred 

Describe what you see


Express how you feel


Dare to proffer an interpretation 

Your interpretation

Even though it’s not the absolute truth

Even though it’s not the last word on the matter


It is a word on the matter

And it’s yours

Some will recognise it 

Some will understand it


Some will even share it 

(Perhaps even on Facebook)
Some will love it, others hate it

Some will mistake you for it


Some will love you for it


And some will hate you – for it

They are all wrong: You are not it


Don’t think they love you – or hate you 

No, they love or they hate it


Not you

So be an artist: Open your mouth – speak your mind!


Sing your heart out!

Get a pen in your hand – write!

And above all: Get up and dance!

No matter what they say. 

No matter what you think they think.


Most don’t know how to see, anyway
Don’t know how to feel


So come on and show them something, give them something:
What you see


What you feel
That’s all you can do


Be there for them


Be there for others to see you 

To feel you
Be one in a hundred


So tomorrow there can be two


Then maybe three

, and four
And who knows

, one day
Maybe more than fifty! A majority!

And for a second or a minute


The daily terror show will be replaced

For someone, someone at least

By something else

By you or by someone else

Who sees and feels the wonder show of the world

Like that man handing out free newspapers


At Porte de Vanves, exit number two

Published: December 2, 2018

Last modified: September 4, 2022

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