On Desired Things


When I seek inspiration and soul balm I usually turn to John O’Donohue’s prayer poetry or Maya Angelou. Today, being the first of October, I wanted to turn elsewhere, back to my roots and words that never failed to lead me back into the light.

Max Ehrmann was a writer and poet from Terre Haut, Indiana. Born in 1872, he studied Philosophy at Harvard and wrote primarily on spiritual themes. His most renown work, however, Desiderata, only achieved fame posthumously.


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 the dull and the 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 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 sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy. 

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.
Click HERE for the German translation and HERE for Spanish 

It rained the entire day and most of the night yesterday, truly miserable weather but somehow a fitting closure to September, a month that has ushered in many changes for me. I sat on the balcony and listened to the rain and the rustling of the trees in the dark as they swayed to the wind and bent their bows gracefully. That was a powerful moment, as I took cognisance of the lesson from the gentle giants. Let the storm into your life, you can’t change it and you can’t control it, but you can withstand it gracefully, and let the world know that you are still standing in spite of it all. A friend recently pointed out that trees are not silent, they have their own secret language and transmit messages to the world in their own way. Read Peter Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate” (available in English and German) if you don’t believe me or Colin Tudge’s “The Secret Life of Trees: How They Life and Why They Matter” (English).

This morning I am sitting in the same spot, but facing a beautiful blue sky and with the sun shining down on me (though under a blanket). The trees are still, with only the faintest of movements among the leaves, the rooster next door is delivering his Sunday sermon, much to the chagrin of the birds and sleeping humans and my cat has her eyes closed and her face tilted towards the sun. The birds, however, are out in full force and playing cheerfully around the rooftops. It is all about the present moment, making the most of the hear and now, and savouring the abundance of the simple things in life.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

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