Thursday, September 29, 2011


Desiderata is a poem with a lot of personal meaning to me. The last few weeks has been a pretty rough time and I've been searching for the best way to properly express my feelings in my TED talk carefully and poetically enough to honour Kim's life and Matt's struggles over the past year. This has been such a hard moment for him and I feel like it's absolutely necessary to make the dedication to them in my speech really count.

Max Ehrmann says some truly beautiful and poetic things in Desiderata, and I'm thinking about using this specific quote. My speech is not totally done yet so I don't want to write down the rest of the closing remarks, but I think I've focused in on this portion of Desiderata to use as a quote:
"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. Strive to be happy."
This part speaks to the conflicting ways of the world - how there is so much negative amidst the positive. It is deep, it's serious, and it adds some weight to your thoughts - life may go well a lot of the time (hopefully) but there are times where it doesn't. Dr. Seuss's "Oh, The Places You'll Go" has a section like this too. The book bounds along happy-go-lucky for quite a while and then hits a wall. But the part I really like about it is the hopeful turn at the end: "Strive to be happy".

Strive is a really interesting word choice. It implies that happiness is not a given, happiness is not always around ready for the picking. You must continually reach for it, pushing forwards desperately in the hopes of  attaining it and keeping it close. "Strive" implies there will always be effort required on your part. You can't just sit around and have happiness arrive at your doorstep - you need to want it and you need to keep working for it. At least that's what I get out of it. And that's a really nice message.

Here's Desiderata in entirety, in case you've never read it.
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 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 with your soul.

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

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