Category Archives: #ThatsLife

Borrowed resolutions

Woody Guthrie’s 1942 New Years Resolutions

Every year for as long as I can remember, I have never understood the need for New Year’s resolutions. It’s absolutely the worst time of year, at least for me, to start trying to change habits, particularly since I’ve moved to the land of no sun from November to at least April. Personally, the summer is more likely to get me moving on stagnant goals. 

This year, I think I have finally understood why this custom, desperately in need of a change of scheduling, happens at the New Year. Apart from the general idea that humans like “round” dates and numbers, the simple truth is, that at least in recent history, we don’t have the time to think the rest of the year. But, during a break from work at a point in the year where other distractions are harder to come by, it makes sense that you would have some time to look at yourself and having so neglected yourself for most of the year it also makes sense that you might find a few things you want to work on.

I still resist the idea of formalizing my personal improvement list for an arbitrary time construct, but I do enjoy reading other peoples and incorporating the best ones into my own lifelong personal growth goals. After all, you never know from where the inspiration for your next personal improvement strategy will come. 

So instead of offering up something I don’t truthfully use, here is a list of Woody Guthrie’s 1942 “Rulins” (AKA New Year’s Resolutions):

  1. Work more and better
  2. Work by a schedule
  3. Wash teeth if any
  4. Shave
  5. Take bath
  6. Eat good – fruit – vegetables – milk
  7. Drink very scant if any
  8. Write a song a day
  9. Wear clean clothes – look good
  10. Shine shoes
  11. Change socks
  12. Change bed clothes often
  13. Read lots of good books
  14. Listen to radio a lot
  15. Learn people better
  16. Keep rancho clean
  17. Don’t get lonesome
  18. Stay glad
  19. Keep hoping machine running
  20. Dream good
  21. Bank all extra money
  22. Save dough
  23. Have company but don’t waste time
  24. Send Mary and kids money
  25. Play and sing good
  26. Dance better
  27. Help win war – beat fascism
  28. Love mama
  29. Love papa
  30. Love pete
  31. Love everybody
  32. Make up your mind
  33. Wake up and fight

As I type these out I realize how little we, as a species, really change through the years. So many of these are going on list of things on which I hope to find time to think.

If you didn’t notice on your way in, the image above is his actual journal entry complete with accompanying illustrations.

To Posterity by Bertolt Brecht

1.

Indeed I live in the dark ages!
A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart. He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
And he who walks calmly across the street,
Is he not out of reach of his friends
In trouble?

It is true: I earn my living
But, believe me, it is only an accident.
Nothing that I do entitles me to eat my fill.
By chance I was spared. (If my luck leaves me
I am lost.)

They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink
When my food is snatched from the hungry
And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would gladly be wise.
The old books tell us what wisdom is:
Avoid the strife of the world
Live out your little time
Fearing no one
Using no violence
Returning good for evil —
Not fulfillment of desire but forgetfulness
Passes for wisdom.
I can do none of this:
Indeed I live in the dark ages!

2.

I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger ruled.
I came among men in a time of uprising
And I revolted with them.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

I ate my food between massacres.
The shadow of murder lay upon my sleep.
And when I loved, I loved with indifference.
I looked upon nature with impatience.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

In my time streets led to the quicksand.
Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer.
There was little I could do. But without me
The rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

3.

You, who shall emerge from the flood
In which we are sinking,
Think —
When you speak of our weaknesses,
Also of the dark time
That brought them forth.

For we went,changing our country more often than our shoes.
In the class war, despairing
When there was only injustice and no resistance.

For we knew only too well:
Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.

But you, when at last it comes to pass
That man can help his fellow man,
Do no judge us
Too harshly.

written by Bertolt Brecht
translated by H. R. Hays