Brain Pickings

“Dream Good”: Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolution List, 1942


How to keep the hope machine running, or what socks have to do with self-actualization and belonging.

As a lover and maker of lists, I often agree with Umberto Eco that “the list is the origin of culture.” But, more than that, it can also be a priceless map of personal aspiration, as is the case of the kinds of lists we make this time of year — resolution lists. This particular one, penned by the great Woody Guthrie in 1942 at the tender-but-just-wise-enough age of 30, is an absolute gem of humor, earnestness, and pure humanity.

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 cloths often
13. Read lots good books
14. Listen to radio a lot
15. Learn people better
16. Keep rancho clean
17. Dont 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 dont 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

What’s interesting is that the list doesn’t map onto the Maslow hierarchy of needs in order, but does contain shuffled elements of its five tiers, perhaps validation for the universality of Maslow’s insight into human psychology and aspiration — there is the physiological (“Wash teeth,” “Shave,” “Eat good”), the safety and security (“Bank all extra money,” “Keep rachno clean”), the love and belonging (“Dont get lonesome”, “Love mama,” Love papa,”, Love Pete [Seeger]”, “Love everybody”), the esteem (“Wear clean clothes — look good”, “Dance better”), and the self-actualization (“Work more and better”, “Keep hoping machine running,” “Play and sing good,” “Make up your mind,” “Wake up and fight”).

Thank you, Woody, for a timeless list that still speaks to us all — yes, by all means, let’s read lots of good books, keep hoping and dreaming, make up our minds, and love everybody. And, you know, bathe.

via Boing Boing

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