The first duty of a human being is to assume the right functional relationship to society — more briefly, to find your real job, and do it.
Kids don’t have a little brother working in the coal mine, they don’t have a little sister coughing her lungs out in the looms of the big mill towns of the Northeast. Why? Because we organized; we broke the back of the sweatshops in this country; we have child labor laws. Those were not benevolent gifts from enlightened management. They were fought for, they were bled for, they were died for by working people, by people like us. Kids ought to know that. That’s why I sing these songs. That’s why I tell these stories, dammit! No root, no fruit!
What is — ‘Paradise’ —
Who live there —
Are they ‘Farmers’ —
Do they ‘hoe’ —
Do they know that this is ‘Amherst’ —
And that I — am coming — too —
Do they wear ‘new shoes’ — in ‘Eden’ —
Is it always pleasant — there —
Won’t they scold us — when we’re homesick —
Or tell God — how cross we are —
You are sure there’s such a person
As ‘a Father’ — in the sky —
So if I get lost — there — ever —
Or do what the Nurse calls ‘die’ —
I shan’t walk the ‘Jasper’ — barefoot —
Ransomed folks — won’t laugh at me —
Maybe — ‘Eden’ a’n’t so lonesome
As New England used to be!
I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life — about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them.
Those heights by great men won and kept; Were not achieved by sudden flight; But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night.
It is not work that kills men it is worry. Work is healthy; you can hardly put more on a man than he can bear. But worry is rust upon the blade. It is not movement that destroys the machinery but friction.
Personally, I have nothing against work, particularly when performed, quietly and unobtrusively, by someone else. I just don’t happen to think it’s an appropriate subject for an ‘ethic.’