On Optimism: Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata


“Desiderata” – Max Ehrmann

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.

On Optimism: Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata

by Dr. Crystal Hurd

There’s something warm and comforting about timeless wisdom. It’s like sipping hot coffee on a chilly winter evening or putting on that one pair of “broken-in” shoes that seem to conform to every curve of your foot. When I read something which is saturated by authentic human experience, I am pulled out of myself and into the wider vortex of society.  You are not the only one, it reminds me.

As a confessed introvert, I have a compulsion to turn inward. It is a nice change to be shaken out of my self-induced slumber, to awaken to a wider world. Such awareness is a good thing. That is, until I see the consequences of that knowledge and vulnerability. Not all in the world is good; in fact, there are some deep, unrelenting issues which darken the skies for so many of us. Fear, paranoia, sadness – all of the aspects of humanness we wrestle to conceal or to conquer. In September, we mused about the sorrows of September 11.  I wrote about the importance of Wednesday morning, about the necessity of recovery and hope. There is a natural urgency in so many of us to resume some sense of normalcy. Even if that normalcy requires me to redefine a former idea, I choose to buffet the storm because the alternative is a crippling idleness.

Because the world, with all its flaws and failures, truly is beautiful. How can I be angry when I stop and notice the autumn leaves, in their blazing hues, cascading down around me?  Minor inconveniences are so insignificant when I consider the enduring love I share with family and friends. Are these small, frivolous, and irritating things how I choose to perceive my world? Or do I characterize my life by the smiles on my students’ faces, by the gentle hum of my dryer as it warms the sweaters I bought at Goodwill, or by the loving dog dozing at my feet? Yes, the world is beautiful.

Ehrmann’s lesson: “noise” is temporary. Let it wash over you and leave no stain. Remove your armor, lay down your weapons, and breathe in. Allow room for quiet, understanding, and perspective.

In this month of thanksgiving, let us be reminded that we are encompassed by blessings, blessings given not for neglect, but for joy.

Remember, you are a child of the universe and “you have a right to be here”. Claim it, and in this very moment (no matter your circumstances), seek to be happy.


Dr. Crystal Hurd is a writer, reader, public school educator, and adjunct professor.  She is happily married with three beautiful Terriers (adopted from local shelters).  She is a certified book nerd who loves to read and research works involving faith, literature, art, and leadership.  You can visit her webpage  www.crystalhurd.com , friend her on Facebook, (Crystal Sullivan Hurd) and follow her on Twitter:  @DoctorHurd and @hurdofficial.


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