Desiderata (Latin: “desired things”, plural of desideratum) is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945). It exhorts the reader to “be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be”, and to “keep peace with your soul”. “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,” wrote Ehrmann, “it is still a beautiful world.”
I guess if I were to try and sum up my philosophy, this piece of work would come pretty close. I was first introduced to this in my teens and it was lost on me. Apparently the wisdom afforded by time was not entirely lost on me. It’s what I try to do and how I try to live (albeit with occasional failures). I want to point out that I have made one minor change to the original. In that text Ehrmann refers to god as a “Him” and I’ll continue to suggest that we refer to god as “it.”
I mean no disrespect to anyone’s beliefs on this matter, but I do this for very specific reasons. On the day someone introduces me to god, it drops trow and shows me a block and tackle, I’ll be happy to call it him. Additionally, I don’t capitalize god for the same reason I don’t capitalize universe. When someone can prove to me that there’s only one of either of those then I’ll consider them proper nouns and start capitalizing them. It’s a matter of linguistics and logic with me. I’ll be happy to discuss the matter with anyone at any time.
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 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.
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 it,
whatever you conceive it 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.
Strive to be happy.
( – Max Ehrmann, 1927 – )