What Would Willie Do?

The Tao of Willie
A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart
by Willie Nelson, with Turk Pipkin

When I don’t know
how I’ll get through,
I ask myself, what would Willie do?

— Bruce Robison, “What Would Willie Do?”

Austin songwriter Bruce Robison’s song “What Would Willie Do?” is about a guy who guides himself through tough decisions in life by asking what I’d do in the same situation. It’s a fine song — and funny, too — and I hope the sentiment helps Bruce in the tough choices he has to make.  (He already married the lovely Kelly Willis and they’ve got kids all around, so he seems to be doing okay so far.)

The best part of having a song written about my so-called wisdom is that I can play it for people when they give me any shit.   But where does that leave me, I’m often asked, when I’m looking for someone’s advice to follow?

Over the years, I’ve learned that I have the perfect person to steer me as well.  When I’m contemplating one of life’s difficult decisions I generally consult with the world’s oldest living roadie, Ben Dorsey.  Once John Wayne’s personal valet, Ben is now eighty-one, but doesn’t look a day over eighty-one and a half.

Bless his barely thumping heart, Ben is my canary in the coal mine.  So when faced with a difficult decision, I generally observe Ben and do the opposite of what he does.  If Ben orders chicken, I order fish.  If Ben want’s mayonnaise, I want mustard.  If Ben wants a window, I want the aisle.  If Ben says use two rolling papers, I use three.

So the best advice I can give you is, don’t be like Ben.  One Ben Dorcey is perfect, but the world doesn’t need another.

The purpose of life is not merely to serve as a warning to others.

And that reminds me of a joke.
Question:  How come Hitler didn’t drink?
Answer:  ‘Cause it made him mean.

Since there’s not much to be learned from a crazy asshole like Hitler, the rest of us have to find more positive examples of what we really need.  When I’m looking for positive guidance, I think I just try to consider who I am and what is the right decision for me.  As with breathing deeply or drinking plenty of water, there are a lot of simple choices in life.

You know inside whether it’s right.  But you still have to choose to do it.

The way I see it, if you start out looking at somebody, wondering whether they’re good or bad, you’ve already started in the wrong direction.

We’re all good and bad, and the only difference is in our actions and our words.

Besides, cruelty is all out of ignorance.  If you knew what was in store for you, you wouldn’t hurt anybody, because whatever you do comes back more forcefully than you send it out.

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