COMMENTARY 770.5: Desiderata

In 1927, Max Ehrmann gave us timeless advice in a poem called “Desiderata” (Latin for “things desired”):

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 vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and 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.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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Comments 5

  1. Michael, we discuss this poem in our “High School Leadership and Ethics” seminars and with aspiring candidates to West Point. It was very popular and widely read during the mid-late 60’s. Very few seem to be aware of it today. I am glad you posted it. Another poem that is poignant for youth today is Rudyard Kipling’s “If” — again, not as widely read as in my high school/college days. All the best, Pat

  2. Excellent Michael. Good to be reacquainted with this modern classic. Please re-post yearly (on January 1st, maybe?). Thank you!

  3. Echoing Pat, Karen, and Glenn.

    A classic that really helped me when I first read it in high school. It sums up so many things in life, and “character” certainly seems to be in the foundation of its message.

    Thank you, Michael, for the gentle reminder of how and why it means so much to so many people.

    God bless

  4. I have this poem posted in my classroom and there is also a framed copy on the desk in the school office. It is a wonderful reminder to us all about how to live well.

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