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Music

David Letterman on the two rules of life

David Letterman has extolled many lessons for humanity over the years. One is that Madonna should not be aired before the watershed, another is to never enter the kicking radius of Crispin Glover, and a third is that “Traffic signals in New York are just rough guidelines.” 

Nevertheless, unless you’re a Manhattan-based talk show host then you can’t really call these lessons universal rules for life. Most of us will never encounter Glover’s roundhouse circumference or scream ‘I’m walking here’ in the Big Apple. But from his experiences, Letterman has been able to garner a few key tenets to navigate existence on this manic planet with a sound philosophy at hand. 

His rules live by the ancient tenets of the great sage Walter Sobchak whereby he decreed, “That’s right, Dude. The beauty of this is its simplicity. If it gets complex everything can go wrong.” And the rules also bear a striking resemblance to the words of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut who once wrote: “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” 

The use of “Babies” in that God Bless You, Mr Rosewater quote has always added a humble charm to Vonnegut’s decree, and the same can be said for the King of Late Night, “I spend a lot of time, like everybody does, driving around with my son Harry,” Letterman casually declares even though I, for one, have never even met his son Harry let alone driven around with him.

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Nevertheless, the briefly misguided talk show host quickly gets back on the right road, adding: “Sometimes you take an opportunity to teach him and reinforce things for him. And I say, ‘Harry, what are the two most important things to know in the world?’ There’s really only two things.” It’s a big question, with a simple answer.

Thereafter, Harry proved to be a chap who knows the ways of the world despite his tender years, answering: “One, you have to be nice to other people.” And when asked for the second rule to life, he replied, once again with an astuteness beyond his years: “The greatest songwriter of modern times is Bob Dylan.” As Letterman proudly proclaims, “That is all you need to know in life.” So, for God’s sake be kind, keep listening for that answer in the wind, and give thanks and praise to the beauty of Bob Dylan’s music. 

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