Almost 30 years ago I ran across an article by Michael Ventura with this title. It was a list of 38 suggestions that he boldly suggested would solve all our problems. I cut it out – made copies – took some of them to heart and saved others to think about “later.”
“Later” never came … but GOOGLE did, and sure enough! By simply searching for “Michael Ventura – LA Weekly – Solutions …. I found a PDF online and printed it out. My original copy was a reprint in the Utne Reader and some of the suggestions are a bit different. Here’s the PDF and below it I’ve pasted the slightly edited version I read 30 years ago below.
SOLUTIONS-TO-EVERYTHING I have some favorites. I’d love to know yours!.
SOLUTIONS TO EVERYTHING
by Michael Ventura
March 9, 1990
It’s happened once too often. Somebody says or writes to me, “You talk about
what’s wrong but you don’t offer solutions,” or “My girlfriend-boyfriend-lawyertherapist
says you should suggest solutions, not just talk about bad stuff.” And maybe
they’re right. Maybe to detail one’s vision and let readers take it from there if they feel
like it just isn’t enough. Maybe there are solutions, and maybe I should know them.
So I sat down and thought real hard, and here, numbered for your convenience,
are my solutions to everything.
00. Indulge in secrets. Without one or two major secrets, your life will surely fade. (If
you’re over forty and don’t understand this… you’re in big trouble.)
A conundrum: secrets aren’t lies – they’re mysteries, havens, passageways.
Lies wreck your life; secrets can save your life. But sometimes you have to lie to
keep the secret. Uh-oh.
1. Make mistakes. As jazz saxophonist Coleman Hawkins said, “If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t
2. Stop lying about yourself. To yourself. To your family. To your business
associates. Maybe even to your enemies. (Your enemies oppress you as much by
your fidelity to your own lies as by anything else.)
3. Stop tolerating in your leaders what you would not tolerate in your friends. But…
4. Tolerate impurity. Trying to be pure about anything is a way of setting yourself
up to fail. Asking other people to be pure is a way of setting them up.
5. Read one book a month — a book that you didn’t find out about in a magazine or a
newspaper. Browse an independent bookstore and wait till some book says, “Read
me,” and read it.
6. Listen to the voices. The wee inner voices. (The voices make mistakes sometimes, but they don’t make boring mistakes.)
7. Leave people alone when they tell you to leave them alone. If they mean it, they
need it. If they don’t mean it, they’re trying to manipulate you, so fuck them.
(Note: this rule applies to grown-ups only.)
8. Don’t make the sophisticated error of thinking that a negative voice is
automatically smarter than a positive voice.
9. Eat real food but don’t be a fanatic about it.
10. Don’t be a fanatic about anything.
11. Do only exercises that take you somewhere. Walk, ride a bike, roller-skate, swim.
All other exercise is ego- and/or fear-driven, and if you listen to ego and fear you
will drown out the voices you most need.
12. Don’t run. Really, don’t. America likes to run because running from (fill in the
blank) is what we do best. Everybody who runs is running away
from something terrible. Stop running and find out what’s behind you.
13. Eat Italian food. Italians went from being oppressive Romans to being the
inefficient wonderful Italians they are today. It’s probably the food.
14. [No longer applicable. No longer even possible.]
16. Given that you’re living where driving is necessary, learn to drive. You may think
you know how, but my experience of the way you drive is that you probably
don’t. So here’s how: Drive for space. Space in front of you is the safest thing
you can have with a car. Darting in and out of traffic doesn’t change anything, it
just makes you older. You can’t beat the average traffic flow on any given street
or freeway by more than five minutes, which only makes a difference if you’re
having a baby. And don’t you feel like an idiot when you’ve passed six cars and
they pull up beside you at the next light?
17. Dance. Jesus said, in one of the Gnostic gospels, “He who does not dance does
not know what happens.”
18. Don’t worry so much about being fat. Fat feels great in bed.
19. Have at least one other living thing in your abode. Rhododendrons, for instance,
are fantastic creatures. They give much, ask little, have marvelous names, and
they don’t shit where I walk.
20. Look into people’s eyes when you talk to them.
21. Call your parents by their real first names the very next time you see them. Try it.
Watch their faces. Then do it at least half the time you talk to or about them from
now on. (If people all over the world did this, nations would cease to war.)
22. Have candlelight in your life. (If you should get into rituals, it’ll come in handy.)
23. No matter how rushed your schedule is, spend at least five minutes in the morning
quietly in bed with your loved one just being gentle together. Perhaps drinking
24. Tell your mother and father, individually — and your children, if you have
children — what you really think. Once a year, minimum. If more people did this,
it would save more lives than arresting drunk drivers.
25. Do not avoid the eyes of the homeless.
26. If you think something is wrong — at work, in your family, in your self, in your
country — agitate for change. If you won’t do that, it doesn’t matter how tan you
27. As regards No. 23: Assuming that you want a loved one but don’t have one, my
bet is it’s not because you’re fat, ugly, crazy, old, a failure, a drunk, a ninny or a
clod. Lot’s of fat ugly crazy older failing drunk ninnying clods have loved ones.
Lots who don’t have lovers want one, and would probably even put up with you.
So there’s some lie at the heart of your loneliness; being with someone would
reveal the lie, and you don’t want that.
28. Tape this to your bathroom mirror:
One can only accept in others what one can accept in oneself.
— James Baldwin
29. Work is a sacrament. Don’t despise anyone’s.
30. Don’t talk down to kids.
31. Don’t chicken out about sex. Given that you’re with a consenting adult, do
whatever you fantasize. This is much more important than quitting smoking.
32. Watch at least one black-and-white film per month.
33. Regarding No. 6: Entertain the notice that there are… voices. Some come from
within, some from the plants and objects and such around you, and some come
from what I call, for shorthand purposes, the Infinite. If you don’t listen to them,
your life will be more difficult than it has to be.
34. Pay more taxes — and insist that those taxes, and the taxes you already pay, go for
education. Giving the young a lively, thorough, truthful education is the most
important environmental issue today, even more important than acid rain, tropical
rain forests and ozone holes.
35. Let me make that a lot clearer. Recycling and shopping ecologically are almost
pointless when so many high-school students drop out, and most who graduate
can’t read much and have no skills to speak of. How can these people inherit a
world? Even if we give them a greener world, are they equipped to keep it that
way? You want a solution, so here’s a solution: Take to the Streets for the
Education of the Children.
37. Stop looking for other people to supply the solution. You’re the solution. If
you’re not, there is no solution.
38. Be aware of the Network. We live by a network of connections and links. Your
connection to yourself, to your intimates, to your place, to the collective, to the
planet, to the Infinite. (Each is a distinct connection.) Equally powerful are the
collective’s connections to you (not at all the same as yours to it), to groups of
intimates, to itself, to the planet, to the Infinite. All these levels and connections
interweave. All are equally important. All the links or connective points of this
network (call them the acupuncture points of our universe) both take and generate
energy. Any link out of sync weakens the others. (The West, for instance, has
concentrated too much on the individual, the East, too much on the collective;
both approaches have been catastrophic on every level of the network.) This
network, from you all the way to the Infinite, is a living whole, ceaselessly
changing. Some of these changes take millions of years. Some happen
instantaneously. May the links of the network shine.
Copyright © Michael Ventura. All rights reserved.