Twenty Rules of the Universe That I’ve Discovered So Far:
A Work in Progress
1. Anything you work at and practice, whether a valuable skill or a bad habit, you will become increasingly adept at. Anything. Be careful what you do more than once.
2. When you find someone who really loves you, it’s a miracle, a gift more precious than wealth, success, long life or fame, because you really are a weak, flawed, neurotic, pathetic mess, but their love can redeem you.
3. The best places to live are those where the footwear costs no more than $2.99, and having more than one pair is a simple matter of color-coordination.
4. As Gary Snyder pointed out: country & western songs reveal all the timeless stories, hope, pain, aspiration and drama of the classics.
5. Also attributed to someone else (hey, I never said I made all this up), John Muir, the auto- and guidebook-writer, not the famed naturalist: Your car will last much longer if, each time you start it up, you wait to drive it long enough to roll and smoke a cigarette.
6. It is a very rare occurrence indeed when it is not the better course of action to wait, longer than your gut tells you you should, before whacking someone who’s wronged you with a two-by-four.
7. My old friend, Rich Compton, who I haven’t seen in thirty years, regularly observed: “We’re out here, and this is where we are.” He was right, and I still say that.
8. The ultimate test of the rightness of the location of your home is if you feel comfortable, and regularly practice, taking a leak in your front yard. Shooting a gun works also. A man I know, who lives in a very dense, suburban neighborhood in San Diego, and who was prone to giving me the benefit of the doubt, tried this. His wife came out the front door and hollered at him, “John, what the hell are you doing?” to which he answered, “O’Keeffe suggested I should try this.”
9. Another dear old friend often said: “If the Egyptians had wanted refrigerators, they would have invented them.”
10. Almost always, when in a conflict with a friend, lover, stranger, parent or one of our kids, it’s at least half our fault.
11. In those same circumstances, when the other person has stepped up onto their Righteous Platform, we have the power to extend a hand and help them back down, and it really isn’t all that hard, even if we’re right and they’re wrong.
12. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
13. There isn’t a single politician, business-leader or general, in the entire history of humankind, who holds a candle to even the most mediocre poet, philosopher, painter or musician.
14. In some part, greater or lesser, you will become your parents, no matter how much you distance yourself from them, no matter your judgments of their behavior or their treatment of you, and your kids will memorialize you in the same ways. Get to know one another.
15. Two wrongs may not make a right, but in L.A., three rights can make a left. It is indeed a rule of life that intersections with twelve lanes going in four directions don’t work when they employ left-turn signals. L.A. drivers know this and adjust accordingly. People from Yuma and Des Moines and Barstow are lost when faced with this challenge.
16. Somebody’s already said “Being rich isn’t everything, but being poor ain’t shit” and “Times of plenty of dope and no money are better than times of no dope and plenty of money”, so I won’t plagiarize those. All I can offer is that it seems everyone I know likes to be happy and materially comfortable, and we don’t want to have to choose. It truly is difficult to think about “hierarchy of needs” and “self-actualization” when we just want to cover the rent and a couple burritos.
17. Sooner or later we’re going to have to face the reality that our standard of living cannot last indefinitely, as the supply of other people who make our Levi’s, cutlery and Cuisanarts for pennies, who haven’t figured out what’s really going on, is running out, and when they figure it out, they’re going to be frightfully pissed off.
18. The sun will only rise and set 25,000 to 30,000 times each in our lifetimes, every occurrence being the most utterly profound and extraordinary event we can possibly experience. It’s important to not miss very many of these.
19. Babies smell better than any flower, perfume or thousand-dollar Bordeaux.
20. Every thought or idea that I formalize, categorize or commit to a top-twenty list is fatally flawed and will pass into the organic components from which it came, given enough time.