Desiderata is a poem written in the 1920s by Max Ehrmann, an american priest living in Indiana at the turn of the century. The title of the poem is Latin and means 'things to be desired', and like If by Kipling, I suppose it's a dictum on how to go about living your life. It's some ill shit. What I find so stunning about it is above all its scope. That each and every time you read the poem you can take from it a different line, which will be pertinent to what you might be going through at that moment. Take a big hit:


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.

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.


It think it is my favourite poem, and remember explicitly when I first read it written on the wall of a friend's bedroom at university. The last two lines are tattooed on my left arm. Obviously chicks dig well-shaped guns and dudes who like poetry, so that was two birds with one stone. But mainly I think that the last two lines are the most important of all. I marvel that Ehrmann can write about all these huge subjects, from love and friendship to religion to work, and still deign to leave a parting gift so simple.

Nothing but...

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

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