You Are A Child of The Universe
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the 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 the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious 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, for it is a 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 in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann © 1927
What Is The Magic of 'Desiderata'?
I first recall encountering this piece of wisdom, this poetic prose piece actually on the radio of 1971, a guy named Les Crane put out a spoken word version to a musical backing; it was a minor hit. However there was something about the way Les Crane recited this, and the backing singers which gave the whole thing an inflated and hyperbolic image. Being a witty, slightly cynical young man, I laughed at the rendition, and the simple wisdom of this piece was obscured to me.
However, a few years down the line, I noticed my mother had this poem hung on the wall just over her bed. I always respected my mother’s long suffering patience with her lot, my parents did not get along all that well, my father was a difficult fellow to live with; we knew he had been through WWII so, much was allowed for, but even so there were things I found very difficult to tolerate, my mother I am certain even more so.
But this Desiderata, it contains something that is difficult to dismiss as being ‘soft soap’.
Of course it promotes a positive attitude, and a tolerant forbearance with others, it has much in common with the best of Christian values and yet is not overtly religious; it implores us to be ‘at peace’ with God, whatever we perceive God to be. Hardly the pulpit bashing zealitory of a fundamentalist!
I think what the Desiderata has is a recipe for moderation, the middle of the road is often the optimum position, especially when either side represents extremes.
We are being spoken with, rather than lectured, there is no tone of censure or self righteousness. This is what one man has distilled from life, and we can drink the ‘nip’ down in one take and feel it mellow us out.
This is pretty groovy stuff, in the vernacular of a different time.
This is a ‘despite everything’ kind of speech.
If I had written this I would be very content, in fact I would feel proud of myself.
The Desiderata has a timeless quality, and it speaks to us very clearly, very unpretentiously, and with a spartan honesty and economy of language, there is no floral self indulgence.
Intellectual people, of letters and other disciplines might mock this homespun kind of potted wisdom, and I suppose Max might have been guilty of an earnestness, and earnest people are always vulnerable to mockery aren’t they?
However, I think if you indulge in mockery, or clever parody of this piece, you are cheapening yourself, it is too soft-a-target, almost like ridiculing a child.
This is English language put to a good purpose, I will always defend this wonderful piece of writing.
The old saying that ‘talk is cheap’ is not always correct, sometimes talk is very valuable, it just depends on the intentions of the talker!