I am reading Bob Coltman’s book, Paul Clayton and the Folksong Revival. Coltman mentions that Pete Seeger wrote an advice column that was published in Seventeen magazine.
That seemed pretty interesting, and a web search picked up the article. I pasted it below since the website was producing some weird errors.
PETE SEEGER TALKS TO TEENS
A singer of folksongs gives his own seven and a half pillars of wisdom.
DEAR FELLOW HUMANS:
I usually mistrust older people’s giving advice to younger, because while often their advice is very good (the values of foresight, temperance, persistence, etc.), they forget that younger people usually know one of the most important things of all: the value of enthusiasm and enjoyment of life.
Twenty-five years ago, Franklin Roosevelt spoke to my generation. “Youth: hold fast to your dream,” he said. In other words don’t give up your ideals of peace, freedom, justice, truth – the way as many adults do. When you come down to it, more people die from discouragement than any disease. And why do people get discouraged? Because they feel that life’s a joyless struggle; because they feel they’re on a dead-end street.
So here are a few of my own recipes for avoiding this kind of discouragement. They may or may not apply to you. Only you can decide.
1. It’s better to take a job you want at less pay than a job you don’t want for more pay. But you can learn from any job.
2. It’s okay to suffer intense temporary discomforts in order to reach a longer-range goal. But make sure it is only temporary.
3. Debts can be chains, best used when they can haul you to new heights, rather than entangle your legs. It’s the same with possessions. “Man doesn’t possess possessions: they possess us”.
4. Travel while you are young, and still are free of responsibilities. See what a big, broad, beautiful land we have here, then maybe a foreign land or two. See that there are honest, hard-working people in every corner of the globe, all quite certain that their own way of living, their local geography, their music, etc. is most beautiful.
5. Keep your health. It’s easy while you are young. But our fine, tempting, modern civilization can erode it easily too. Many a man or woman has finally worked himself into a position where he could do something, and then found he no longer had the health to do it or enjoy it.
5½. In view of the fact that good health and energy don’t last forever, it’s worth doing some things earlier than later. When my wife and I were about thirty and very broke, we built own our house, inch by inch, on a mountainside. Glad we did; doubt we’d have energy enough to do it now. And I’ve known too many people who put off such projects “until we have the money” or “until we have the time” – and if they eventually did get the money or the time, they no longer had the energy.
6. A happy sex life may take years to achieve, but it’s worth it in the long run. Worth the time, the thought – or rather, the thoughtfulness – and, often, the waiting.
7. A few short ones: Prestige is much overrated. The celebrity business is for the birds. Respectability is nice, but consider: whom do you most want to respect you? Money is like air or water. You need a certain amount to live. Beyond that, who wants to be a dog in the manger?
And now I’ll stop before I rattle on any longer, like any old graybeard. All the foregoing applies to the one central thing I mentioned at the beginning: how to keep discouragement from withering the priceless enthusiasm which most young people have.
So far I’ve quoted FDR and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Here are a few more favorite quotes. (Note: When you steal one person it’s plagiarism. When you steal from ten, it’s scholarship. When you steal from a hundred, it’s original research.)
First, a story about the late comedian Fred Allen. He once saw a small boy toddle in front of a truck and snatched him to safety just in time. On the sidewalk again, he said, “S’matter kid: don’t you want to grow up and have troubles?”
Next, a fragment from the German poet Bertolt Brecht.
. . .For we know only too well:
Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern;
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind.
Here’s a famous line credited to Gandhi: “To the millions who have to go without two meals a day, the only form in which God dare appear is food.” A line from a Harvard graduate back from Africa: “Nigerians are a proud people who don’t want tourists, don’t want heroes, don’t want saviors. They just want schoolteachers.”
Now, a paragraph from Woody Guthrie the dustbowl balladeer who taught me much not only about music but about my country and life in general: “The worst thing that can happen to you is to cut yourself loose from people. And the best thing is to sort of vaccinate yourself right into the bloodstreams of the people. . . to feel that you know the best and the worst of folks that you see everywhere, and never to feel weak, or lost, or even lonesome anywhere. . .There is just one thing that can cut you from the people and that is any brand or style of greed. . .There is just one way to save yourself, and that’s to get together and work and fight for everybody.”
Lastly I quote the words of a song I put together last year, using words from the book of Ecclesiastes.
“To everything (turn turn turn)
There is a season (turn turn turn)
And a time for every purpose
A time to be born, a time to die,
A time to plant, a time to reap,
A time to kill, a time to heal,
A time to laugh, a time to weep.
A time to build up, a time to break down,
A time o dance, a time to mourn,
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together.
A time of love, a time of hate,
A time of war, a time of peace,
A time you may embrace,
A time to refrain from embracing.
A time to gain, a time to lose,
A time to rend, a time to sew,
A time to love, a time to hate,
A time for peace – I swear, it’s not too late!
To everything (turn turn turn)
There is a season (turn turn turn)
And a time for every purpose
Well, here’s hoping all the foregoing will help you avoid a few dead-end streets (we all hit some), and here’s hoping enough of your dreams come true to keep you optimistic about the rest. We’ve got a big world to learn how to tie together. We’ve all got a lot to learn. And don’t let your studies interfere with your education.