Desiderata by Max Ehrmann
20 January 2003

 

Could anyone not like this poem? I don't think so. Just reading its directions for peaceful living makes me feel calm inside. It's the ideal soothing mantra: I'd like to hear Cate Blanchett read it in the tones she uses for Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. Ehrmann's words create an oasis of peace and light, like Lothlorien, wherever they appear.

What I especially like is the poem's universality. More than just a set of guidelines, it is a consolation for people of all faiths, occupations and creeds. "Be at peace with God," Ehrmann counsels, "whatever you conceive Him to be." And, "with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams/It is still a beautiful world". It's not so bad, really, is it? It's not so bad.

Every line is carefully considered, crafted, and interdependent with the rest of the poem. Some lines contain more than one important idea: "Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love". Others are as simple as it is possible to be: "Be yourself." There is nothing that runs counter to my beliefs and instincts, and I see no reason not to adopt this as part of my unique secular creed. I have a copy on my wall where I will see it whenever I pause from my work. Already I feel its peace taking me over.

Just one thing I would alter: I'd set it to music so that its message could be taken in subconsciously and aurally as well as visually. The words already have their own kind of music. With some soft strings behind them, they would become almost hypnotically beautiful.

 

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