In my classrooms where I taught fine art and visual communications for years hung a framed calligraphic version of the poem, Desiderata. In all of my family’s crisscrossing-the-country moves, I’m not sure where it ended up. But over the past week this excerpt, “do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness,” has crept into my head.
Out of curiosity I conducted an online search to find and re-read the poem in its entirety. I came across the writing and its history on the website, Planet of Success, an online community geared “to make this world a better place.”
I also found what I sought on a site called Business Balls, and in an article entitled “The Meaning Behind the Desiderata Poem” by Michael Shook on the site PubLishous. All sources pointed out the controversies and myths surrounding the author, the poem’s actual year of publication, varied interpretations, and its location of discovery.
All of that seems irrelevant given current events. The poem itself, however, may offer what many of us need right now. I’ve provided the short but powerful poem herewith for contemplation, for whatever it might be worth.
by Max Ehrmann
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, 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
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.