The Desiderata


This old Max Ehrmann poem is as relevant to me today as ever it was:

Go placidly amidst 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 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 labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

I posted this a few months back for fellow WordPress blogger  Shakti Ghosal, and the dialogue that followed sparked this post. I thought I’d share:

Shakti: What a virtuous nugget you have brought in here with “The Desiderata.” Great and eternal truths, but sadly we fail to articulate and germinate most of these in the hurry-burry of our lives. Consciousness of the “peace within” is what I have been striving for … with limited success.

I believe the genesis of our fear is our attachment to our perceived outcomes. How do we “let go” remains our challenge.

Bela: My thoughts as to ‘why’ we project our fear outward and/or subsequently attach (it?) to others is clear to me only in that I believe humans are great reflectors and refractors – it’s almost as if one of the main reasons we are here in this world is to recognize and marvel at its beauty; to ‘glorify creation’ which I believe is a Biblical expression. So these qualities are innate, or so I suppose. And then due to confusion and conflict, we are thrown or caught off-balance, and the dance begins between what we ‘know’ (as in the remembrance of our innate goodness) and what we ‘practice’ (as the result of our confusion).

There must be a reason humans are so attachment-oriented. If mothers did not ‘attach’ to their young; if mates didn’t ‘attach’ to one another; if families, friends and communities were not compelled toward attachment, we might learn nothing of caring and compassion – and there would be little to anchor us in the chaos of creation. On the other hand, we certainly have mastered transferring those impulses of healthy attachment onto situations, places, things and substances which no longer serve us; indeed unto those which may actually render us harm (and knowing this deep down, are we provoking our own fears?). And so discerment seems imperative – in order that we not only survive, but that we thrive and learn and grow on planet Earth.


Come Early Morning

There’s a sweet spot that exists every morning – when the light returns and dreams taper into images the eye can gather into focus. There is a right time to arise. I do not wake up to alarms, and even though I gifted my husband with a Zen clock that gently chimes at a selected hour, I can sense even his arm reaching, before daybreak, stifling the small click that precedes the tone.

Arising in darkness conjures years spent on the road in sales – cruising behind hopped up tractor trailer drivers on icy highways headed too far north – recalls chunky salted gravel and cracked windshields, gold jewelry and high heels; competitive striving and the stale breath of poverty blowing straight down the back of my youthful neck. If I were to whitewash memories a bit, I’d cast back to a childhood spent in anticipation of oceans and lakes, deserts and mountains – places out of the city where my young soul gulped the rarified air of freedom. But it meant arising at four, and even then it seemed a sacrilege to shuffle about before the sun decided to broadcast another day.

Before society inures us to bustle – in a time preceding the noise of family squabbles, electronics and the overall din of civilization – beats a heart yearning for serenity. The head conditions itself to busyness while the soul basks in silence. The further I have returned to that innate longing, the stronger my penchant for solace in open oceans and in quiet forest glades.

It is enough when, startled, a murder of crows ascends to the sky – gathering like a torrid thundercloud seeking to release itself once again upon a verdant land. The beating of a hundred pairs of shiny black wings telegraphs a bolt of voltage clear down to my toes. Alarm clock be damned, if I need to rise, I have only to remember that flock of birds or the thrill of a giant manta gliding right toward me out of the blue. Seeded long enough in memory, these and a million other startling images prove adequate to awaken me from the deepest slumber.