Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Desiderata


Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann, is my all-time favourite poem. Where some people cling to the words of the Bible or the Koran through arduous, challenging times, I smile at these words.

There is a bit of backstory to how I discovered this poem, though…

Seventeen years ago, before the Internet, I met a girl named Jo at the nightclub I used to haunt, in my home city of Carlisle.

She was beautiful. Brown eyes, olive skin, a perfect body, and she would have earned a Gold Medal in bedroom gymnastics.

It turned out she was not for me… actually, I found out a few weeks later that she was engaged to a police detective in the city, and he had the capacity to get quite annoyed about his girlfriend’s indiscretions… but, ho-hum… I didn’t know that, previously.

So, when she left, the next morning… a little later, I was going to write in my diary (which I still kept, back then) about the previous night.

On the page I was going to write on, I read the words:

“You are a child of the Universe; no less than the trees or the stars. You have a right to be here.”

Jo had scrawled it in there.

She seemed the sort of person who could whip those words from her heart, so I always thought they belonged to her.

We only ever met each other in passing, after that momentous night, but she’ll always be someone important, to me.

It was around 15 years later, when the world was getting to grips with the Internet, that I put those words she wrote to me into a search engine, and found this wonderful poem:


Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.


© Max Ehrmann 1927

25 comments:

  1. I love Desiderata. I like the story of how you discovered it. I found it when I worked in a pizza parlor in San Francisco about 20 years ago. They had a bunch of them printed on nice paper to give to their customers.

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  2. Thank you for reminding us of these wise words!

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  3. Yes, indeed, it is beautiful. Great personal story. Thanks for posting it here.~Pepper Blair

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  4. Yes, I remember it too, from about 20 years ago. A coincident perhaps in the ways of the world and greater things, that I had been thinking about Desiderata a few weeks ago, without being able to remember the words but remembering that it had been quite poignant. I have it written down somewhere, lost among the deleterious of life and many moves. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. I've been reading your blog in fits and starts from tweets you've put out recently, and have been truly appreciating your perspective and the stories you share with your readers.

    This is something I really needed to read today. Thank you!

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  6. Deep and meaningful. Great poem.

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  7. The Desiderata is my favorite poem also. I too came upon it in a strange but wonderful way. That is a story for another day, but thank you for reminding me.

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  8. One of my all-time favourites - thanks for reminding me!

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  9. Talk about synchronicity. Lesism is beginning to sound very much like vicism. I just read Desiderata ... then thought 'hang on'... that's hanging on our wall. And so it is. My partner found it somewhere and had it framed a few months ago.

    I better read it again - mindfully.

    It's strange, but this whole mindfulness business is exploding into my life from many different directions at the moment. Good job too. I have just jumped off the cliff to see if I can fly.

    Keep 'em coming, Les.

    Vic

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  10. One of my favorites as well, Les. I love your own backstory to it. Beautiful!

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  11. Damn dude, this is a pretty awesome poem. And I don't do poems. Wow. Why is this not around more?

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  12. oh my god, it's great poem. thx

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  13. Thank you for reminding me of it. I almost forgot the words. Recently I also descovered the Holsteen manifesto and almost missed the moment where thes two can complement each other in a certain manner.

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  14. Les --- thanks so much for sharing this post. I was a child of the 60s and this was published as a song in the 70s. Beautiful poem...beautiful words...beautiful song...so timely even some 40 odd years later.

    I have a huge plaque of this poem that hung in every college apartment through grad school. Need to spiffy it up and hang in my office!!

    Now I am off to search YouTube for the musical version!

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    1. Annie, I hope you find it. I too remember it being on all the radio stations and as a poster in my room. I had a copy of it on a cassette, but it has deteriorated beyond recovery.

      Les, thanks for the share. Great post.

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  15. I love the wisdom of that philosophy. My mother introduced me to Desiderata about 30 years ago, when I was quite young. It had a profound effect on how I viewed the world and myself. It always felt so real and true, and I always felt better after reading it. Thank you for posting it -- and reminding me of it. I'm going to dig out my mom's Desiderata plaque and make sure to stop regularly to take in it's wisdom. I love the story of how it came to you, and that that line stayed with you for all those years. That line always especially resonated with me, as well. Very powerful. -anon

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  16. My favorite poem, after reading Desiderata, dust off Thoren's book "Walden Pond", the combination of the two should change your outlook on life forever! To thy self be true!

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  17. Used to have a poster of this stuck to my kitchen door many years ago. It was particularly relevant in the seventies (Les Crane had a hit with a spoken version of it in 1972) and I always found the thinking behind it very profound. It's like a detox for the soul.

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  18. What amazes me is how many of the words were either meaningless or didn't make sense when I was in my teens, but they hold deep meaning now. Thanks for bringing it back. Now, I'm off to download the song from back then.

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  19. Like others, I am struck by how much more meaningful and relevant this poem is today compared to when I heard/read it as young (still sleeping) adult. Thank you for bringing it back into my attention.

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  20. Hi and TY so much for reminding of this beautiful piece! Great story too :-)

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  21. This was beautiful thank you for introducing it to me. I needed it....

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  22. Stunningly beautiful. Thanks for the posting. It's really given me pause for thought.Thanks Les.

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