Monday, December 28, 2015

Desiderata

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When I was a kid sitting in the heat of the black leather interior of my dad's car there were some favorite 8 track tapes that our family listened to again and again and again. The songs from these 8 track tapes became the music of my childhood. We had a fairly motley collection of artists on those 8 track tapes, from Herb Albert to Cheech and Chong to Jim Croce to Simon and Garfunkle. If we were in the car then we were listening to music in my dad's car.

Dad had an 8 track tape called Visions by Les Crane, a collection of music from all over the map. I loved that tape and played it often. In fact, one year I found it on Amazon.com and bought a copy for each of my siblings. Although their initial responses weren't what I had hoped they would be, I know that they loved that music as much as I did.

8 track tape player
On Visions was a cut of the prose poem called Desiderata spoken on the tape by radio announcer Les Crane. In the early 1970s people liked to act like the poem was a mystical find from a church in 1692. But in reality Desiderata was written in 1927 by American poet Max Ehrmann. When I was a kid I asked Dad about the possibility that the poem was truly written in the 1600s and he said I don't think so; there are concepts in the poem that wouldn't have been written in those days. At the time he wouldn't tell me which line was so unmentionable. Now I realize that he was referring to the line Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

The poem Desiderata is a huge part of my childhood, indeed, of my very identity. I'm sharing it with you because I feel like the poem is a light in the darkness of this fine, rainy day. Be Cheerful. Strive to be happy.

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.



Max Ehrmann

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1 comment:

  1. My grandfather--who we called Papa--had a print version of this in his office as long as I can remember. I now have it. <3

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