Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 2 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions

I’ve never been much given to making New Year’s resolutions, and this year doesn’t feel like the time to start, but I am going to start the year by talking about them, not least because the husband sent me this link to a list of New Year’s Rulin’s as written and illustrated by the great Woody Guthrie in 1943.

It strikes me that most people resolve, at any time of the year, to give up bad habits or adopt good ones; it’s all about losing weight or going to the gym, or about giving up smoking or becoming a vegetarian. Dry January has become a thing now, hasn’t it?

Woody Guthrie’s list includes thirty-three items for consideration, which seems like a lot, until you begin to dissect the list, and realise what a creative mind can be like. Not for this man the idea of a new beginning, of a fresh start, of the need to alter a portion of his life, to become more or less of something. This list begins with first principles of mind, body and soul.

Woody Guthrie’s list includes reminders to love, ten of them, depending on what you count and whether practical demonstrations of love, such as sending home money to feed your wife and children is, in fact, an act of necessity. 

Talking of acts of necessity, Guthrie also includes certain reminders to the practical on his list of rulin’s. Perhaps twenty of his resolutions might be considered to fall into this category and include changing his socks and shining his shoes. It seems entirely like him not to choose to have his shoes shined for him.

There’s something rather pathetic about the list when we look at it like this, when we think about it as the sort of list we might make, but it’s not like that is it? It’s not like that at all.

Of course Woody Guthrie needed to remind himself to shine his shoes or brush his teeth, because when he was deep into his work all other things went by the wayside. That’s probably why he had to remind himself to love his mother and send money to his wife, too.

He had to remind himself to work, to schedule, to write every day, because the creative mind still needs discipline; nothing comes out of chaos, and, for some artists and makers of things, without those schedules, without that order, facing the work just becomes too damned hard.

Then there’s the other stuff... Then there’s the magic... Then there’s the real list, lurking among the detritus of a corporeal life. This is the list that really shows us who Woody Guthrie was, this exposes the song-writer, the performer, the political activist. As with many a great song, the good stuff in this list comes right at its heart, and then, of course Guthrie ends with a bang.

This is the portion of Woody Guthrie’s 1943 list of New Year’s Rulin’s we could all take notice of:

15. Learn people better
17. Don’t get lonesome
18. Stay glad
19. Keep hoping machine running
20. Dream good
32. Make up your mind
33. Wake up and fight

And here’s the list in its entirety:
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 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.

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