Oct 04

“Desiderata”: The Last Part of Max Ehrmann’s Great Prose Poem

Part Three, the final of this week’s pieces on Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata poem. (See Part One and Part Two at these links.)

XI. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Wendy Lustbader, gerontological social worker and author of Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Getting Older, on an important finding: “Life gets better as we get older, on all levels except the physical.”

Need some assistance with a “positive aging” attitude? Try http://www.healthyaging.net.

XII. 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.

From the Calm Clinic:

Both those with anxiety and those with paranoia often worry about worst case scenarios. For example, a child with anxiety would worry that their parents are going to get hurt in a car accident. A child with paranoia may worry that someone is after their parents to hurt them. Both are fairly similar. Many of those with anxiety do worry often, especially about irrational things. Those with paranoia also tend to assume the worst, believing that these dangers are destiny.

Want to determine your level and type of anxiety? Click on this test at Calm Clinic.

XIII. 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.

A key scene in the acclaimed movie The Help in which housemaid Aibileen (Viola Davis) gives one of her repeated and ongoing messages of encouragement to the child of her employer: “You is kindYou is smartYou is important.”

XIV. 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.

Dazzling photos of various places in our “beautiful world”:

XV. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

For some quick tips on how to achieve this:

For further information about the Desiderata poem, please click here for Desiderata.com.

Oct 03

“Desiderata”: The Middle Part of Max Ehrmann’s Prose Poem

Picking up from yesterday’s post, here’s Desiderata: The Middle Part…

VI. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Psychology Today“Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success). Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and social comparisons quiet but our true feelings may come out in subtle ways.”

Steve Furtick“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Anne Lamott: “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.”

VII. 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.

 VIII. 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.

Seeking everyday heroes? Not hard. Here are just a few websites of note:

IX. Be yourself.

A common enough sentiment among writings in addition to Desiderata: The Middle Part.

Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Bernard Baruch: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Leo Buscaglia: “The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.”

Harvey Fierstein: “Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

Jo Coudert: “For you cannot live in someone else. You cannot find yourself in someone else. You cannot be given a life by someone else. Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose.”

X. 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.

Erica Jong“Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”

Douglas Yates“People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.”

The final part of this blog series on Desiderata will be here tomorrow…

Oct 02

“Desiderata”: Contemporary Takes, Piece by Piece

If you could see my sturdy but worn copy of Max Ehrmann‘s 1927 prose poem “Desiderata,” the one that hung on my wall for eons after discovering it in my youth, you’d get a strong sense of how often it moved with me to various residences, providing meaningful inspiration.

As I reread it now, it still seems a fitting source of wisdom for a budding social worker/therapist—or for anyone at all at any stage of life.

In Latin, “Desiderata” means “desired things.” Here it is, reprinted in its entirety:

DESIDERATA

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 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 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 with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

In this and the next couple posts I want to look at this piece by piece, adding other relevant thoughts, quotes, and video clips newer to me than “Desiderata.”

I. Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

I’m sure humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) didn’t mean in therapy.

II. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Professor Katie A. Siek offers a test that determines your particular social style. Per the test, those main types are as follows:

  1. Analytical–Low Responsiveness, Low Assertiveness
  2. Drivers–Low responsiveness, High assertiveness
  3. Amiables–High Responsiveness, Low Assertiveness
  4. Expressives–High Responsiveness, High Assertiveness

III. Speak your truth quietly and clearly… 

Adrienne Rich: “Lying is done with words and also with silence.”

Walter Anderson: “Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.”

IV….and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

“A smart man can learn from smart men, but a wise man can learn from everyone”. (Unknown source)

V. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

Tomorrow, the middle part of “Desiderata“…