The last post in this mini-series is not strictly a poem; it’s a prose-poem. This poem, “Desiderata” (which is a Latin word that loosely translates as ‘something that is desired or wanted’) is touted in various poetry circles as a manual for life.
The poem is steeped in spirituality and stresses the importance of living a life based on high ideals, having faith and trust in a higher power. Though there are some myths around its origins, it is believed to have been written by Max Ehrmann in 1920. But the poem was not really known during his lifetime and only started becoming famous after his death. His widowed wife published a collection of his poems (including this one) after his death under the title “The Desiderata of Happiness: a collection of philosophical poems by Max Ehrmann” in 1948 after which Desiderata‘s use in devotional and spiritual discourses and recordings picked up rapidly because of its universal messaging.
This poem has deep meaning for me. I was acquainted to it pretty late in life and was introduced to it by a senior colleague at work. Ever since, it has been a go-to for me whenever I need some lifting up. This poem also helps me introspect on my actions and my thoughts. Different lines have given me solace at different points of time in life.
Here’s the poem for you to read!
I really can’t choose a favourite line in this poem because as I mentioned earlier, I have related to different parts of it at different times in life!
Although this poem is written in rather colloquial terms, for today’s post, I want to break it up further to spell out my interpretation of these deeply inspiring lines that have resonated with me in so many ways. At the cost of making this a rather long-ish post, I hope you will find some value in my elaborate thoughts!
I’ve also linked up my earlier posts wherever they relate to the lines of the poem – I was surprised to find that so many posts of mine have been subconsciously influenced by a thought process so similar to the essence of the poem! Probably the reason why this one’s the last in this series – it’s one that I relate to the most in the list and ties up all the earlier poems in this series (and some more!) together in a dramatic way!
So here we go!
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Find your peace even amidst all the chaos you may be experiencing in your life. Silence is golden – You don’t have to speak only to break it.
I wrote recently in my post on Daffodils about ‘the bliss of solitude’. I truly find that when nothing else works, silence is the best therapy because in silence, you can hear and connect with your inner voice. Here’s a link to an earlier post on the ‘The bliss of silence’ that I wrote long back!
Silence – in personal and in professional interactions – can really help you perceive things differently and achieve results that many a time, words can’t!
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
This one’s easy – don’t pick petty fights with people. Don’t compromise on your values in doing so, but try to be the bigger person whenever you can. You can be friendly without being friends with someone!
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Don’t be afraid of the consequences as long as you have done nothing wrong. Be honest and true to yourself.
We are all on our own life path and no matter how much we try, we can never really, completely understand another person because we’ll never go through what they are going through or experience it in exactly the same way. Being nice and showing some empathy goes a long way, as I have also written about in the posts linked here. The golden rule of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you‘ applies here. In fact, go one step further and ‘Do unto others as they would like you to do unto them‘ – read more on this in my earlier post on the Platinum rule of relationships.
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.
This one’s a bit hard seeing as we don’t always get to choose our company! But as far as possible, keep joyful and civil company – people who bring out the best in you! This circles back to the first stanza of the poem – don’t let the noise outside of you drown out the voice inside your head!
One can’t help compare – whether its lifestyles, wealth, opportunities and/or fortune. Yet, it’s important to train the mind to not compare – To be able to be happy for others without being jealous of them.
Something I HAVE to mention here – Social media and TV today serve as constant reminders to us about the imperfect lives we are leading – imperfect only because they are stacked up against picture perfect instagram posts, travel feeds and a digital idyll that some people seem to be living in. It’s these comparisons that we need to be wary of!
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.
Enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Take time to make merry and soak in the joys of the present moment because you’ll never get it back! As I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, you may have miles to go before you sleep but you won’t cross this abundant forest again.
It’s interesting that the poet talks about career specifically in the midst of the other generic life advice that the poem offers because it just emphasizes how much our life really depends on it. Choose your career well and resist comparing it with others. As I mentioned in my previous post, life is a decision tree and we are defined by the choices we make. Have faith that you will have your time to shine and when you do, no one will be able to stop you. Remember that while you’re cribbing about a lost promotion, someone else is desperate for a job! So have patience and take pride in your work.
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.
Don’t let the 5% of negative and treacherous people make you lose faith in the 95% of humanity that’s leading their life on the basis of goodness and strong values. Be careful but not paranoid.
Be happy for the little niceties that you see around you – that honest cabbie who returned your mobile because of his own integrity, a delivery-boy who got you your Subway amidst pouring rain because he was committed to his job, a co-worker who stayed back at work to help you finish yours because she genuinely cared – there are scores of people out there who are still being nice for no reason and with no ulterior motive. Don’t be blind to the possibility of being cheated, but don’t let your suspicion come in the way of creating valuable, positive and lasting relationships.
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.
Don’t be apologetic for who you are! Be yourself and take pride in it. My first post in this mini-series was about ‘being YOU’ which you can read here. Another of my posts that you should go check out is this one – Being authentic. In a world that’s constantly trying to pigeonhole you into some some kind of boxed up definition, don’t lose yourself and your free spirit! And remember, part of being yourself is allowing yourself to change! So don’t stick yourself up against some past “ideal” that you set if it’s holding you back from being the best version of yourself today.
Love is all-encompassing. Love truly, widely and freely. And when you are loved, receive that gift with open arms because it’s nature’s way of telling you that you’re special and worthy and deserving of every iota of that love coming your way! But most of all, love yourself – the most – and not in a selfish way but in a caring, forgiving and accepting way!
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Don’t be afraid of growing up. It’s not something you can control. Instead, enjoy the process. As you grow, a lot of things will change – the things you enjoy may not hold your attention anymore, the things you once found annoying may start becoming more bearable or even important to you. Being young in the mind does not mean not accepting the wisdom of the years. So you can still keep your spirit childlike while accepting gracefully, the changes that age brings.
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.
In simple terms, this translates as ‘hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst’. Steel yourself to fight anything that comes your way so that when misfortune strikes, you don’t cower down. But don’t let that stop you from being positive and cheerful. Don’t ever come under pressure to sell yourself out. Meditate on the good things in your life. Surround yourself with the people who matter to you, communicate effectively and try to uplift the people around you whenever you can.
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.
Irrespective of everything, love yourself and be kind to yourself. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to falter along the way. Ask for help when you need it.
You are special and one of a kind – there’s no one else quite like you!! So own your place under the sun!
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.
You may or may not believe in God. But know that there is a higher power that is keeping the cosmic checks and balances in order. Follow the principle – ‘Change what you can, accept and let go what you can’t and most importantly, know the difference’! Be positive, cheerful and kind, spread love and be honest to yourself. Everything will pass and what will eventually matter is not HOW you got through it, but that you DID!
No matter how broken or flawed it may seem, the world is still a beautiful place with lots to cheer about.
Focus on the sparkle in your life – The happiness you desire is within you. Allow yourself to feel it and spread it!
Phew – I did say it was going to be a long-ish one. Maybe we can take the ‘ish’ out now!!
But if you got to the end of this post, you’ll agree with me on how this poem really covers EVERYTHING there really is to finding your sunshine!
Let me know if there’s a specific part of the poem that resonated with you the most!
That brings me to the end of this mini-series. I’ll be back with something new soon. Keep reading, keep following and keep commenting on my blog!
Take care you guys, and stay safe!