Desired Things

Some 40 years ago, a little known poem by an American writer Max Ehrmann published just before the Great Depression, won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, alongside with Martin Luther King, Jr. “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”.

The Grammy was won by Les Crane, a radio announcer and TV talk show host after reaching Top Ten in the Billboard Chart in 1971. As a teenager then, I remembered seeing the poem in all kinds of fancy posters, plaques, engravings and other memorabilia. It was one of the most popular gifts and the most played album on the the radio at that time.

Long forgotten over the years now, I chance upon it recently while looking for inspirational words to start the new year. The words in the poem are surprisingly refreshing as if I am reading them for the first time.

Hope you enjoy this 1927 poem by Max Ehrmann and the 1971 recorded narration by Les Crane. (click here for youtube version)

DESIDERATA

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 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 shams, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

JY

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3 thoughts on “Desired Things

  1. I had a wall plaque with the Desiderata written up hanging in my room when I was in Sec 4 (a long time ago).

    There are a five sets of lines that I’ve remembered and keep reminding myself with:
    a) Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    – this is something I tell myself even now. especially when I am trying to get things done and am in a “noisy” place. Sometimes, I just switch off
    the world around me to get on with life. Silence, like drinking a glass of water, is really soothing.
    b) If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    – this is perhaps what I keep front and center. I accept anyone and everyone. I’ve found that, although I might get annoyed and sometimes
    just want to keep away from some people, I take solace in that I never will compare or let others tell me of comparisons. If you are ahead
    today, you could be behind tomorrow. It does not matter. What matters is that you do your best and in doing that, keep happy.
    c) 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.
    – unconditional love is our family ethos. mistakes are mistakes and owning up to is is part of the unconditional part. we all have our
    own dreams and aspirations but none matters when you cannot have unconditional love.
    d) 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.
    – and it always reminds me of Carl Sagan’s “you are made of star stuff”. Science and the need to be clear in understanding the multiverse
    we are in and not go with blind faith, however soothing blind faith may be.
    e) Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
    – My mantra.

    Thanks, Joan for putting this up. It made my day.

  2. it was the the words that caught me when it was aired many years ago n still remember it…was just thinking of it few days back..
    .tksvm for that!

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