Desiderata

I’m a bit surprised with myself for not posting this before now. I suppose one reason is that I feared it might be so well known that it would be considered a bit of cliché. However, at the end of a stressful week it seems a good time to post  Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, which I think contains much wisdom and which I always find a calming influence in anxious times. I know some people think this piece is nothing but a collection of platitudes, but I think it’s more than that. In any case,  if nothing else, it provides  useful advice for anyone serving  on a grants panel or waiting to learn the outcome…

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.

5 Responses to “Desiderata”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Thank you for the Wikipedia references. I always found it difficult to believe that this was written in the 17th century, and the links you give clear this misunderstanding up.

  2. […] I’ve been so busy this last week that I really needed to unwind a bit on Sunday morning, for which purpose I picked this beautifully spare and sublimely contemplative piece by the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. This music always makes me think of the first line of the Desiderata… […]

  3. […] So, for what it’s worth here is my advice to new postgraduate students. Work hard. Enjoy the challenge. Listen to advice from your supervisor, but remember that the PhD is your opportunity to establish your own identity as a researcher. Above all, in the words of the Desiderata: […]

  4. […] So, for what it’s worth here is my advice to new postgraduate students. Work hard. Enjoy the challenge. Listen to advice from your supervisor, but remember that the PhD is your opportunity to establish your own identity as a researcher. Above all, in the words of the Desiderata: […]

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