I remember growing up and visiting my dad, step mom and the kids at their house in Michigan. It was always a lot of fun, and I cherish those memories so much, especially as I get older. One thing I remember is a poem, Desiderata, that always hung in the dining area of their house. For the next few days I am going to break apart the poem stanza by stanza as it has always meant a lot to me and has shaped me in many ways. First, here is the poem in its entirety:
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 vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself to 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 the world is full of trickery. But let not this 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 it’s sham drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
— Max Ehrmann
The first stanza sets the tone for a good life. 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.
The message is simple, and I’ve recently found the same message appearing in my scripture readings: Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” It’s not surprising how similar these two thoughts are. And, this is what I try to do – as far as possible, live at peace will all people. It’s not always easy, but I do the best I can. That means I have to be patient with people, and accept that they are, after all, human and prone to making mistakes. That isn’t always easy for me, but it’s a good aspiration.
The only way I think you can really do your best to live in peace with others if you do the first part of the poem – go placidly amid the craziness and focus on peace instead. The world is crazy, loud and full of busyness. Slowing down, looking for peace, and finding silence helps you to be centered and remember what is really important and what can be left behind.
So today, remember to live in peace…to be still and silent when the world is loud and busy…and do what you can to be a peaceful person. You can’t change the entire world, but you can change your part of the world.