Postman’s Advice on Living

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Neil Postman is one of my favorite thinkers, changing much about the way I think about media and modern society, with varied applications to the church, in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. His “Advice for Living the Rest of Your Life,” a lecture delivered by Postman, is something I stumbled upon via Austin Kleon (his books!).

The complete lecture can be found here (delivered initially in 1989, and again with revisions in 1993). Kleon cited his favorite bits. I went back to the full manuscript, and decided to quote Postman’s list in its entirety. If you want Postman’s commentary, you’ll have to go to his text.

  1. Do not go to live in California.
  2. Do not watch TV news shows or read any tabloid newspapers.
  3. Do not read any books by people who think of themselves as “futurists,”such as Alvin Toffler.
  4. Do not become a jogger. If you are one, stop immediately.
  5. If you are married, stay married.
  6. If you are a man, get married as soon as possible. If you are a woman,you need not be in a hurry.
  7. Establish as many regular routines as possible.
  8. Avoid multiple and simultaneous changes in your personal life.
  9. Remember: It is more likely than not that as you get older you will get dumber.
  10. Keep your opinions to a minimum.
  11. Carefully limit the information input you will allow.
  12. Seek significance in your work, friends, and family, where potency and output are still possible.
  13. Read’s Law: Do not trust any group larger than a squad, that is, about a dozen.
  14. With exceptions to be noted further ahead, avoid whenever possible reading anything written after 1900.
  15. Confine yourself, wherever possible, to music written prior to 1850.
  16. Weingartner’s Law: 95% of everything is nonsense.
  17. Truman’s Law: Under no circumstances ever vote for a Republican.
  18. Take religion more seriously than you have.
  19. Divest yourself of your belief in the magical powers of numbers.
  20. Once a year, read a book by authors like George Orwell, E.B. White, or Bertrand Russell.

I plan to heed numbers 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 18, and 19. Number 6 does not apply. I’ll consider numbers 3, 13, 16, and 20. I have no intention of applying 4, 14, 15, 17, and 20.

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