Storytime: Go Placidly

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So many times since his death in 1984 I have wished to be able to talk with my dad. He was great at listening and giving advice (money, golf, sports, girls(!), life). Even when I felt I didn’t require it. Besides a letter, written in his own hand to me, there are two pieces of writing that remind me of him more than any other. I used to wonder why he had me read them so often, in quiet moments in his workshop, in the basement while building model rockets, or fashioning that season’s Pinewood Derby car.

Later in life, I found myself just drifting over to them on my own to read. I suppose I understand now he was using these moments and these writings to teach me. Teaching me how to act and think for myself when the time would come he was no longer there for me. He believed strongly in these works.

He left us very early, but his teachings and these writings have never left me. And, it seems, I need them more than ever these days.

The first is called Desiderata (latin for “things to be desired”). Dad had this on a scroll that hung on the wall in his workshop. You couldn’t hardly enter the area without seeing it. I have literally read this hundreds of times.

DESIDERADA

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 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 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 critical 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 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 careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927