Monday, August 23, 2010

"Desiderata - words to live by"

To the artists and poets out there torn between their artistic impulses and the realities of making a living... and to everyone else trying to make some sense of their existence in a world seemingly gone mad with aggression and acquisition, this is dedicated to you:

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 to the dull and 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 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's 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.

Max Ehrmann was an attorney turned philosopher-poet who lived in Terre Haute, Ind. He spent his life wrestling with the realities of making a living and following his personal calling to a life of poetry, literature, and thought. He wrote A Prayer, which became a message of hope for thousands, but he is best known for Desiderata, which he wrote for himself, "because it counsels those virtues I felt myself most in need of." Max included this work as part of a personal Christmas greeting in 1933, and Desiderata's power and appeal have continued to reach out to and significantly affect readers ever since. 
He died in 1945.


  1. I love this fact, i wrote a new versio0n for the digital age, you can view it here, called the DIGIRATA, and if you like it, please blog and post it too.... danny

    PS: a bronze statue of Max Erhmann will be unveiled August 26 in Terre Haute Indiana and the sidewalk will contain segments of his poem. big news story on Friday, canada too. google "desiderata + Terre Haute" under the google news section

  2. Bronze sculpture of poet Desiderata poet Max Ehrmann to grace Terre
    Haute cityscape

    According to Mark Bennett,writing for the The Tribune-Star in Terre,
    Haute, Indiana, a bronze statue of American prose poet Max Erhmann,
    wrote the famous "Desiderata" in 1927, will be unveiled on August 26.

    Sculptor Bill Wolfe did the work.
    Bennett calls it "a breathtaking piece of art, with the metal likeness
    of the man who wrote "Desiderata" seated on a park bench, pen and
    paper in hand, on the northwest corner of the Crossroads of America.|

    In addition, Bennett wrote, memorable phrases from "Desiderata," cast
    in bronze, will be set in the walkway leading up to Max. The full text
    of that world-famous poem will be visible to visitors who sit down
    beside him.

    A local Cultural Trail Coalition, formed in 2007, has a mission to
    create public art pieces honoring internationally known Terre Haute
    natives, such as Ehrmann. The coalition decided to start with Ehrmann,
    who chose to stay and work in his hometown instead of moving to
    literary centers such as New York or Chicago. Some people think he
    lived in Baltimore, but no, he lived his entire life -- 1872 - 1945 --
    in Terre Haute, according to Bennett.