Politically Incorrect Advice to the Young from William S. Burroughs, Remixed
“Any old soul is worth saving at least to a priest, but not every soul is worth buying.”
By Maria Popova
It is in the tradition of every culture that its cultural icons would impart words of wisdom on its young. In ours, those have come from celebrated minds like E. O. Wilson’s advice to young scientists, Neil Gaiman’s advice to young artists, Jacqueline Novogratz’s advice to young graduates, and Christopher Hitchens’s advice to young contrarians. Joining them is William S. Burroughs with this deliciously remixed take on his famous, uncensored, and at times questionable advice to the young — which, if anything, underscores the importance of knowing when to and when not to take advice.
People often ask me if I have any words of advice for young people.
Well… here are a few simple admonitions for young and old:
Never interfere in a boy-and-girl fight.
Beware of whores who say they don’t want money. The hell they don’t. What they mean is they want MORE MONEY, much more.
If you’re doing business with a religious son of a bitch, get it in writing. His word isn’t worth shit, not with the good Lord telling him how to fuck you on the deal.
Avoid fuck-ups. You all know the type. Anything they have anything to do with, no matter how good it sounds, turns into a disaster.
Do not offer sympathy to the mentally ill. Tell them firmly, ‘I am not paid to listen to this drivel. You are a terminal fool.’
Now some of you may encounter the devil’s bargain if you get that far. Any old soul is worth saving at least to a priest, but not every soul is worth buying. So you can take the offer as a compliment. They charge the easy ones first, you know, like money, all the money there is. But who wants to be the richest guy in some cemetery? Not much to spend it on, eh, Gramps? Getting too old to cut the mustard. Have you forgotten something, Gramps? In order to feel something, you have to be there. You have to be 18. You’re not 18, you are 78. Old fool sold his soul for a strap-on.
How about an honorable bargain? ‘You always wanted to become a doctor. Now’s your chance. Why, you could have become a great healer and benefit humanity. What’s wrong with that?’ Just about everything. There are no honorable bargains involving exchange of qualitative merchandise like souls. Just quantitative merchandise like time and money. So piss off, Satan, and don’t take me for dumber than I look. As an old junk pusher told me, ‘Watch whose money you pick up.’
Published October 2, 2012