“You Are a Child of the Universe”: Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

Max Ehrmann

Max Ehrmann (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Monday! Today I wanted to share one of my favorite poems: “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), a US-born lawyer, writer, and poet.

“Desiderata” came to me during my last year of high school, a period when I was struggling with the fear of change, endings, and new beginnings. Amidst the uncertainty of my future, Ehrmann’s words served as a welcome reminder to let go of my stress and anxiety.

It’s no accident that the title of the poem is “things desired” in Latin. Here, though, Ehrmann seems to say that the things that we should desire are intangible and immaterial: inner peace, quiet confidence, happiness and contentment.

As we start a new week, let’s keep in mind his call for appreciating the present, embracing the messiness of life, and fostering interior strength.

Pleiades Star Cluster

Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 -oOo-

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 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 perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to 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 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.

 

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18 thoughts on ““You Are a Child of the Universe”: Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

    • That’s one of my favorite lines as well, Marcy, and it’s such an important reminder. I tend to get caught up in the “sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,” but there’s so much *good* in the world too. :D

  1. That’s beautiful, Lena. I can see why, as a teenager, that would be comforting. High school is a time of major change and this poem reminds us that change is a natural progression and a good thing even when surrounded by confusion and fear.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Yes, you’ve pegged it exactly right. There’s something so wonderful about being told that, despite all of the manic exhortations to find a career and figure out a path ASAP, there is beauty and joy in the present moment, and that things will come together. So glad you enjoyed it!

  2. This is one of my favorite poems ever. When you read the words slowly, just letting them linger in your mind they become so much more than what is on the page.

    This is my favorite part of the poem,

    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.

    How often are we hard on ourselves? We should treat ourselves with such love and care as we do our beloved. Thanks for making my heart smile today, Lena.
    Tameri Etherton recently posted..Where I Write ~ A Room Of One’s OwnMy Profile

    • Such a good point, Tameri. I am far too guilty of being hard on myself, and it’s something I’ve been trying to work on.

      I actually used a bit of the quote you highlighted as my senior quote in the year book. “You are a child of the universe…” has such a beautiful ring to it, and it was exactly the sentiment that I wanted to convey.

  3. This is genuine food for soul…. I love this ‘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.’…
    Cindy recently posted..Best Car SeatsMy Profile

  4. Pingback: Interspiration #4212012 « Asrai Devin- the Maven of Mischief

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