Five-Minute Betterment: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut


Kurt Vonnegut is another one of my favorite authors.  When people ask (and they never do any more) who my favorite author is, I say “J. D. Salinger.”  When they ask for my Top Three (which they definitely never do), I tell them “J. D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut, and [my Brother-in-Arms, currently and eternally representing El Paso, TX, “The Jewel of the Southwest].”  I actually just say his name, but, you know, privacy for now.  These three speak to me in a way that I understand, which is not to be taken for granted in a world like the one we live in.

I’ve read and re-read and re-re-read the more-than-ten Kurt Vonnegut books that haunt my shelves and I find that the messages he delivers continue to be relevant today.  Player Piano talks about an over-reliance on technology and the vanishing (banishing?) of the American laborer.  Cat’s Cradle discusses the abuses of science and the atrocities of World War II.  Slaughterhouse Five covers the lesser-known but still tragic bombing of Dresden, Germany in World War II as well as time travel and a myriad of other topics.  It is also the inspiration for this post.  There is a part in the book where the main character, Billy Pilgrim, is at a POW camp in Germany.  The English prisoners have been there for some time and have a relatively luxurious existence.  As the Americans are being prepared to be moved to Dresden for work detail, an English officer imparts some advice on the American that he hopes will improve the overall condition of the Americans’ lives.  I have reproduced it below:

“The Englishman said that he, when captured, had made and kept the following vows to himself: To brush his teeth twice a day, to shave once a day, to wash his face and hands before every meal and after going to the latrine, to polish his shoes once a day, to exercise for at least half an hour each morning and then move his bowels, and to look into a mirror frequently, frankly evaluating his appearance, particularly with respect to posture.”

Today’s Five-Minute Betterment is the last chunk of his recommendation.  “Look in a mirror.. frankly evaluating [your] appearance, particularly with respect to posture.”  We as a society spend a lot of time slouching down in uncomfortable chairs at uncomfortable desks and ogling a bunch screens.  Believe it or not, people’s neck skin is even aging faster than it should because they spend so much time looking down at our phones.  So..


Stand up as tall you can.  When we talk about posture in music classroom, I tell the kids to imagine that they have a string that connects their ankles, knees, and hips, and comes up their spine and out through the top of their head.  I don’t want them pulling their shoulders up so I don’t even mention them.  Then they reach above their head and pull up on their imaginary string.  I tell them (kindergarten mostly) to try to be taller than I am (6’5″) without taking their feet off the floor.

Try it.  Maybe do a few back bends or side bends.  Twist at the waist.  Take a deep breath down into your diaphragm, not up into your shoulders.  Relax your shoulders and roll them out.  Run a comb through your hair and get the boogers out of your nose.  It will only take like five minutes, but it will probably improve your overall condition as well.

Because we are what we pretend to be, but we have to really take care of ourselves if our selves are going to be taken care of at all.



P. S. – If you are a man and you are looking for a no-nonsense and incredibly durable comb to run through your hair, might I suggest perusing the Chicago Comb Company‘s wares?  There combs are hand-forged in Indiana from American steel and laser-cut in Chicago.  I got the Matte Model 1 (pictured below) maybe a year and a half ago from Huckberry and I love it.  It can be hard on tangles, but it really provides a look that is as polished at the comb itself.



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