Sunday, July 15, 2012

Something for Your Soul

Many years ago there was a prose poem that was very popular for a while. It showed up on posters, usually in a faux-antique format that implied it had been "found in Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore AD 1692," was reprinted everywhere, and was also a popular spoken recording. The poem, Desiderata, was actually written by Max Ehrmann in 1927, and is meant to be a calm reflection on the things you should desire (desiderata is Latin for desired things).

In a time of social and political turmoil, perhaps we need to dust off Desiderata again ... but be sure to read all the way to the end of the post before you get turned off by the sappy part ...


Go placidly amidst 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 labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Do you feel uplifted? Peaceful? Happy?

I thought not.

That being the case, you may prefer this updated version of the poem, published by the Harvard Lampoon in 1972 and perhaps more suited for the present state of affairs ...


Go placidly amid the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof.

Avoid quiet and passive persons unless you are in need of sleep.

Rotate your tires.

Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself, and heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys.

Know what to kiss and when.

Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do.

Wherever possible put people on hold.

Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment, and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance.

Remember the Pueblo.

Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle and mutilate.

Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI.

Exercise caution in your daily affairs, especially with those persons closest to you; that lemon on your left for instance.

Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.

Fall not in love therefore; it will stick to your face.

Gracefully surrender the things of youth: birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan.

And let not the sands of time get in your lunch.

Hire people with hooks.

For a good time, call 606-4311 ... ask for Ken.

Take heart amid the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese, and reflect that whatever fortune may be your lot, it could only be worse in Milwaukee.

You are a fluke of the Universe. You have no right to be here, and whether you can hear it or not, the Universe is laughing behind your back.

Therefore make peace with your God whatever you conceive him to be: Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin.

With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal, the world continues to deteriorate.

Give up.

Don't you feel better?

Now, go placidly amid the noise of the presidential campaign and the waste of the money we spend paying the clueless louts in Congress and have a good day.

More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I want to ban tv in my house until after the election. I'm sick of all of these idiots right now.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I liked Desiderata, even the sappy part. There's a lot to be said for being placid. My. g.f. has gotten me to go to yoga with her, and it does help in getting centered.

Congress csn be compared to a fleabite on one's ass.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I found Desiderata to be both inspiring and touching. The simple words, 'You have a right to be here' are very moving and affirming, Thank you. This was good for the soul.

Mike said...

I remember the Pueblo.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I found it moving too.

Amanda said...

There is a place for both these poems.