D is for Desiderata
“Go placidly amidst 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 or 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.”
(1927 poem written by American writer Max Ehrmann)
That poem has always been a part of my consciousness for as long as I can remember. As long as I’ve been able to read, I have known this poem. It’s one of those unusual things in my childhood that left an impression. A long lasting impression. You might wonder why a school-aged child would be reading such an advanced piece and the truth of the matter is that it was an unavoidable focal point in my dining room for years and years. Written in beautiful cursive script on the clock covered in sunflowers… there it was just waiting to be read. So I obliged.
It told me a lot about the ideals & values of my parents. As I grew older, it helped to remind me of my own. When I started to write poetry and journal, I’d often reflect on that poem. It has been with me for so many years now that its meaning in my life surely surpasses the original intent of the author. And it resonates with me more today than ever.
I wonder if Max Ehrmann was a Pagan at heart. It seems as though his philosophy on life is a reflection of so many Pagans I know. There are so many worthwhile messages in this single poem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it, but I always found a message I needed to hear. It helped to let me know that no matter what life dealt me, I was equipped to handle it. When I read it, I see these messages today:
- Take comfort in silence despite turmoil and noise around you.
- Don’t bow down to others, but be nice.
- Be honest.
- Even dull & ignorant people deserve to be heard.
- Avoid loud/obnoxious people, you don’t need their drama.
- Don’t compare yourself with others, be happy with yourself.
- Enjoy making plans & achieving goals.
- Stay interested in your career no matter what it is.
- Be cautious, but open.
- Be authentic.
- Don’t pretend to care for someone if you don’t.
- Believe in love.
- Respect the wisdom of experience.
- Respect the innocence of youth.
- Nurture your spirit and be strong if you face hard times.
- Do not worry or fear unnecessarily.
- Be gentle to yourself.
- You are a part of the universe.
- Even if things seem unsure, they are happening for a reason.
- Be at peace with the creator/God/Goddess.
- Life is worth it.
- Life is beautiful.
- Be cheerful.
- Be happy.
Certainly these are messages we all need to hear and be reminded of. It seems too easy to focus on the negative things about life. Especially when we’re going through something rough. Woe is me is so much easier than brainstorming solutions or “looking on the bright side”. This poem challenges us to look at the positive things about life, reminds us that everything is connected and does so in such a soothing way that by the time someone finishes reading it they should feel counseled and relieved. I know I do.