Desiderata

Last weekend while unpacking (more) books, I came upon one of Steve’s old treasures. Reading it brought memories whooshing in like wind whipping up a pile of leaves.

220px-DesiderataOfHappiness

Chances are, if you are of my generation, you had a Desiderata poster hanging in your room. As best I can remember, mine looked something like this:

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I used to lie in bed reading the bolded parts, though I didn’t much bother with the other passages. Perhaps it was because my mind was too filled with all of the angst of the typical teenage girl’s life–some real, some imagined–like being a bit petrified that I hadn’t practiced my flute music well enough for chair tryouts in band. Or, maybe I was once again irritated with one of my sisters for borrowing my clothes without asking. Most likely, I was devastated that my mom had forbidden me to see my high school sweetheart anymore. Add to that the impending demise of my parents’ marriage. Regardless of what was going on, I doubt I believed “the universe was unfolding as is should.”

If you didn’t have the poster, you might have listened to Les Crane’s recitation of the poem on the radio:

jan1How many of you, in your know-it-all teen years, really listened to the words? I’ll admit, though I focused on a few of them–like “Strive to be happy”–I skimmed over much of the poem, not really interested in understanding it beyond being able to say I “got” Desiderata for the sake of being cool. I mean, what does “Take kindly the counsel of the years” mean to a teenager?

I re-read the words last night. Like I said, it brought back a lot of memories of a time gone by. But I was also struck by the timeless wisdom of the words. And although I didn’t think I’d paid attention to the poem as a whole, it must have made an impact on me, because in general I’ve lived my life according to its words.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to write about segments of Desiderata. No set schedule–I’ve found I don’t do very well with those. But, I hope each post will be an opportunity for you to share your thoughts and perhaps a few memories, too.

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 the dull and the 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 labors 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, “Desiderata”

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6 Responses to Desiderata

  1. I didn’t think I remember this but what you shared makes me realize I do. Thanks for sharing.

    janet

  2. Anonymous says:

    It was posted on my high school English teacher’s doors. I may have tried to memorize it back then.

  3. This doesn’t bring back a whoosh of memories, but I definitely remember the poem/essay and have always strived to live by it too. Thanks for bringing it back to consciousness. I’ll watch for your posts on it 🙂

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