For the Dark Night of the Soul: “Born to Live”

512px-Beach_Sunset_Newport_Coast_(6677432533)

“Where words leave off, music begins.” No argument with Heinrich Heine, but I would say that music and words together sometimes are more powerful than either alone. Case in point, the documentary Born to Live.

You probably haven’t heard it, unless you live in Chicago or have followed the career of the legendary oral historian and radio personality, Studs Terkel.

This collage of voices and words has been broadcast as the first offering each January 1 on radio station WFMT. Created in 1961, during the “Cold War,” it remains timeless; designed to lift you up on those lonely nights at 3:00 a.m. when everything seems to be pulling you down. Once heard, you will not forget it.

Enough. Listen: http://transom.org/2001/born-to-live/

The photo is called Beach Sunset Newport Coast. Catalina Island is in the background. It is the work of Axion23 and is sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

To Your Good (Mental) Health: One Hundred Resolutions for the New Year

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c3/New_year_streamer.jpg

Just a few random thoughts on what you might choose to resolve (begin, stop, or continue) in 2012:

I

  • raise your hand
  • take a chance
  • diversify both your economic and emotional life: resist putting all your eggs in one basket, financial or human
  • learn to say “no”
  • there will always be someone better, someone smarter, and someone better looking; get used to it
  • exercise
  • don’t text or tweet the day away
  • give up on TV news soundbites and actually read something in-depth on the state of the world from a relatively unbiased source
  • look in the mirror at what is underneath the surface
  • make friends

II

  • when upset, imagine how you will feel in a week, a month, or a year; in other words, know that most turmoil is passing
  • don’t be a doormat
  • deal with your childhood
  • be honest, not just when it is convenient
  • work hard (don’t learn the tricks of the trade before you learn the trade)
  • sometimes the rain won’t stop, so discover how to dance in the rain
  • be grateful and express it
  • learn to apologize without excuses
  • pay it forward
  • pay it back

III

  • before sending an angry email, write down 40 ways your missive can be misunderstood or ruin your life; then wait some more before sending
  • find some hobbies
  • eat right
  • beware of hopelessness, but do not became a slave to hope’s capacity for illusion
  • avoid too much self distraction
  • remind yourself that there is no such thing as “must-see TV”
  • don’t abuse substances
  • laugh
  • you have a shadow; best that you get to know it since you most certainly can’t outrun it
  • stand for yourself, but also for something bigger

IV

  • have humility
  • be careful about judging
  • have new experiences and learn from them
  • don’t wait until your feelings change to act (act and your feelings are likely to change)
  • recognize that luck plays a part in life
  • be flexible — don’t inflexibly resist change
  • grieve when necessary, lest things build up
  • make eye contact
  • if you are anxious, learn to be less concerned about others’ opinions
  • realize that money isn’t everything and that the American Dream is a fraud

V

  • know that your kids aren’t all the same and that each one needs something different from you
  • sample things — try them before you say you have no interest in them
  • don’t wait for your savior, save yourself
  • choose your battles, but don’t permanently lay down your arms
  • treat your body as if you might just need it for a while
  • recognize that you are not as important as you think (unless you are the President, a brain surgeon, or the second coming of  Shakespeare)
  • spend less time worrying and accept that most bad things are survivable
  • be an informed citizen, learn about history and vote
  • make haste slowly
  • don’t accept easy answers

VI

  • embrace the opportunity to perform
  • every committee has work horses and show horses; choose the first role lest you look like an ass
  • stay out-of-the-way of people who are bulldozers; it’s only a matter of time before they run you over
  • get out of the city into nature and be dazzled
  • spend time with a few members of a different faith, color, religious group, or political party and get a new perspective
  • As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do”
  • do your best to ignore Ashton, Britney, “The Donald,” Kim, Lindsay, Snooki, and “The Real Housewives;” emptier lives are not to be found unless it is among their fans
  • keep your cell phone off the dinner table and make public cell phone conversations as private and rare as possible
  • don’t text while driving — ever
  • remind yourself every day that (with luck) you are going to get old, wrinkled, and die

VII

  • practice, practice, practice
  • remember that this is not the rehearsal, this is the performance
  • don’t be self-righteous
  • get some rest
  • consider whether those guys carrying signs that say “Repent, the end is near!” might be on to something
  • ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” before you foreclose on someone’s house or stiff your waiter
  • realize that being confused might be an opportunity to learn
  • ask questions
  • when you say you are going to do something, do it
  • keep secrets when asked to do so

VIII

  • don’t be a gossip
  • recognize that a life of logic (without a counterbalance of feeling) is the equivalent of becoming a mathematical formula or a computer
  • learn to be direct
  • don’t have sex while chewing gum; and, for sure, don’t make it as unremarkable as chewing gum
  • do one thing at a time, with all your attention
  • don’t talk over others; listen when spoken to; be polite
  • get over yourself
  • trust, but verify
  • find the poetry in the prosaic and the cool in the quotidian
  • earn your life

IX

  • have a good time
  • meditate
  • live with intensity
  • be kind
  • surrender to intimacy
  • make your life matter
  • live by the “golden rule”
  • study all your life
  • be an enemy of routine
  • love someone or something

X

  • make new mistakes
  • test yourself
  • swing for the fences; shoot for something big
  • try to figure out where you are headed; it’s harder to get there unless you know
  • learn to tell a joke
  • take time to smell the roses
  • keep a lid on the number of complaints you utter and the number of excuses you make
  • get off the cross, we need the wood
  • whether you are a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond, be sure you learn to swim
  • and, to quote Studs Terkel: “Take it easy, but take it”

The above photo of a New Year Streamer is sourced from Wikimedia Commons.