Strive To Be Happy

I can’t claim to know a lot about poems, but there is one which I love for the beauty of its wisdom. It is at once inspirational, humbling and positive.

I’m pretty sure Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata is not new to you and if it sounds or looks familiar, it may be because Baz Luhrmann’s famous Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) music single was based on an essay written by a Chicago Tribune columnist – which is similar in tone to Ehrmann’s Desiderata. The essay may or may not have been inspired by the poem; I don’t know for sure.

I had written this poem in one of my notebooks many years ago, and the other day I suddenly felt the urge to read it again. Don’t read too much into this; I wasn’t feeling stressed or depressed or anything like that. It was just one of those random thoughts that pop into my head every now and then. You know, the same way I sometimes suddenly remember a shirt I haven’t worn in ages, or a friend I haven’t seen for years, or the ayam kampung Valedrom I haven’t had for months (mmmmmmm yum!).

I just felt like reading it again, so I flicked through my old notebook, and did exactly that. It crossed my mind to share it with you as well; and so I will.

I hope you enjoy the beauty of the prose as much as I do.

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste;
and remember what peace there may 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 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 choose 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.
(Max Ehrmann, circa 1920)

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