Go placidly

Years ago, I had the idea to put together a scrapbook of letters for my eldest son’s 13th birthday. I asked people to share poems, letters, and meaningful advice for growing up.

My favorite submission was the one his English teacher gave me. It was a well known poem, but new to me. And it did seem perfect wisdom for life. It was particularly meaningful because this young teacher was in the throes of cancer treatment at the time and she passed away a few short months later.

In more recent years it has occurred to me that the poem perfectly embodies the goals of twelve step recovery and inner healing in general. It is about seeing reality but learning to act instead of react, setting boundaries with unhealthy people, being grateful for life’s gifts, and taking good care of ourselves so that when bad things do occur, we have a store of energy to draw from.

Rather than further analyzing the poem, I am just going to share it in it’s entirety. Enjoy, even if you (likely) already know it.

Desiderata

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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