Strive to be happy


“The universe is unfolding as it should” came up in a discussion this evening and it reminded me of the place, literally and figuratively, “Desiderata” had in my home growing up – particularly through the 1970s.

A sheet of faux parchment paper, poster-size as above, was available wherever  Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin posters were sold such as K-mart or Woolco.  Now doesn’t “Woolco” date me?

If I’m not mistaken our copy was given to us by a dear family friend, complete with the now disproven story of its origins.

Wikipedia has a typical write-up on the piece and its time-line for anyone not wanting to dig too much deeper.

Desiderata (Latin: "desired things", plural of desideratum) is a prose poem by Indiana writer Max Ehrmann. It exhorts the reader to "be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be", and to "keep peace with your soul". "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams," wrote Ehrmann, "it is still a beautiful world."

Our family’s copy was stuck to a small broom closet door in our kitchen-dinette, adhered on each corner by a loop of Scotch tape turned sticky side out.  It remained there beyond my leaving home, as I recall.

Nearly every time I glanced at it, at breakfast or dinner, a different phrase popped up.  I suppose this was my first meditation exercise, however unintentional.

The opening line was easy to memorize:

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

I like this too:

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

A friend of mine in recent years often used the ‘vexatious’ expression:

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

There are many other great phrases, too many to go through, but reading it again suggests to me that there are worse things I could be meditating on, should I wish to reacquaint myself with this work.

A spin-off, which has probably lost whatever shine it might have had, was a spoken word recording of Desiderata by Les Crane and choristers who repeated the “You are a child…” stanza as a refrain.

“It is still a beautiful world…strive to be happy.”


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