Life goes on, it always has, it always will.
“I should like, if I could, to leave a humble gift – a bit of chaste prose that had caught up some noble moods." Max Ehrmann had written these words in his diary before writing Desiderata. He wanted to write a piece of prose that would encapsulate the world. So it is only fair to say that he outdid himself in writing Desiderata.
Max Ehrmann was a poet and a lawyer who lived between 1872 and 1945. He has written many works, but he is mainly known for Desiderata. He wrote it when he was in his 50s, in the 1920s.
Initially, the poem was distributed without copyright, although he applied for its copyright in 1927. It seems he wanted the poem to be as accessible as possible.
Due to the quality of the writing, people often thought it was an ancient work, despite the modern language.
At first, he registered the poem using its first phrase. Finally, however, it gained its popular title today after being published in a newspaper that acknowledged the author. Later the poem was distributed under the same title in Christmas cards.
The poem has previously been shared with the sick in hospitals, congregations as prayer material, and soldiers in the war. It has proven to be an authentic chaste prose that houses noble ideas.
The original poem is in continuous prose. After the author’s death in 1948, the work was partitioned into stanzas. In this article, I will share the poem as prose. I will only highlight a few lines that hit home every time I read or listen to the poem. Be sure to read it for yourself as you will have a personalised revelation.
Remember what peace there may be in silence.
It is in silence that you get to spend time with yourself. Seek that when everything is off, you are at peace, for more often than not, we do not allow ourselves into silent spaces fearing to deal with the chaos in our heads. Instead of running from it, confront it, sort it out, and conquer it. It is only in silence that you can find true peace.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly.
The true north of the universe is ‘Truth’. The magnetic north is your truth. It might be difficult to tell the objective truth, but the true north and your truth, the magnetic north, can guide you. You will never run off course, and if you do, you will not stagger far. So you must know your truth, not to go shouting it to the world, rather let your truth guide you, and when you need to voice it, make sure it is quiet and clear.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble.
It is in your career that you can self-actualise. A career offers an opportunity to bring given value into the universe. As stated in the poem, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Your career is not up for comparison. Everyone is here to serve a specific purpose. Guided by your truth and your peace, you will be able to make a sacred career, however humble.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
You can only express affection through care. Be yourself by being clear about things and people you care about. Caring will cost you time because you will have to show up and be present. By not feigning affection, you save yourself precious time. You save your counterparts or tasks time, emotional expenditure, and commitment. Being yourself tilts you closer to your magnetic truth and brings you closer to finding peace in silence.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Before this line in the poem is the line, “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." Since the beginning of time, everything in the universe has been happening to bring your current being to reality. It has all happened so that you can be. Even better, to be where you are currently in life. You are as sacred as sacred gets, and you are as divine as divine becomes. So, today, whether it is clear to you or not, you are where you should be, experiencing what you should be.
Before you get to read the poem, Max Ehrmann said, although not in the poem, that one thing he has learned in life is that "life goes on, it always has, it always will."
Desiderata 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 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 in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
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