Desiderata

sundaeIt’s a gray skies snowy Sunday afternoon, the fireplace is turned on, Bull Durham is on the TV machine, and I’d rather play with POV-Ray, snooze or get back to reading Terry Pratchett‘s Going Postal than spend hours working on a blog post. Sunday should be a day of rest or, at least, of difference.

I’m not particularly stuck on Sundays; my Lutheran background programs me for Sundays, but there are other ways to keep a Sabbath.

I do think it’s important to observe one day a week that is tuned differently than your other days. I think it’s mentally and spiritually healthy to change your pace one day a week. Dedicating a day helps insure following the practice.

Saturday thousands died for my amusement; today my desiderata is pax and nepenthe, so I thought I would share a Desiderata with you.

In the mid-60s, that prose poem, written by Max Ehrmann in 1927, experienced a round of popularity. It aligned very well with the Hippie Ethos of the day, and we took to it like hotcakes (or hash pipes). It was common to see it on posters and other printed material.

Famous dejay Les Crane (back when a “DJ,” disk jockey,  was a guy on the radio) recorded it spoken over stirring music in the very early 70s, and it became a hit record (a “45” back when that didn’t mean a gun or even a malt liquor).

Spocks ThoughtsLeonard Nimoy made a recording of it in 1967! (He called it Spock’s Thoughts.)

It was big is what I’m saying.

Given how the Information River flows so fast, wide and deep, I’m not surprised to find many younger people today have never heard of it. One goal I have with this blog is sharing nuggets of the past with a new audience that might find them worthwhile (or even just cool or fun).

But before I get to the poem, let me back up a bit. You might be wondering about the dead thousands, plus I want to say a bit more about the idea of taking a weekly Sabbath day.

I heard once that there are aspects of Jewish law and tradition where the purpose is mainly to serve as a reminder that the Jewish people are the chosen. I think reminders can be helpful. Such custom can serve to help define and provide structure to life.

balanceFor some it can be going to the gym or taking that walk or even that annual vacation. They have in common a no matter what aspect. There are always exclusions, but the bar should be very high. A good starting list is: open flames, flowing blood, auto accidents, and so forth.

Structure alone is known to be mentally helpful. Taking advantage of that structure to observe a Sabbath—I think—makes it incredibly helpful (to you). At its most basic level the idea is to take a day that honors your fundamentals, that reminds you of your true path.

For the non-religious, it could mean unplugging from the techno world or focusing on writing or music. I think it’s extremely helpful to see it as “getting away” or “unplugging” from the usual world. The world is noisy; we can all use a break.

peace and quietI often don’t have the TV on at all on my Sabbath (which happens to be Sunday). If I do watch TV, I won’t watch anything violent or even slightly pornographic. Bull Durham is pretty much at the line. That all also applies to any web use. Some Sundays I unplug from the web, too (even email).

Comparing, on the one hand, the stresses and lacks and bad things in my life with my general level of usual happiness—and even frequent joy—I think I might be on to something.

Which brings me to the thousands dead. Yeah, okay, it was all CGI and special effects, but I couldn’t avoid once again noting the level of almost casual death in the most basic of entertainment.  I’m not sure if Battleship and X-Men: First Class are exactly family fare (both are rated PG-13), but they’re certainly targeted at teens.

battleship

It wasn’t like this at all!

In Battleship, hundreds (if not thousands) die under alien attack. Not the stars, of course (not all of them, anyway), and probably no pets, but tons of faceless people die. [My own favorites aren’t immune. I’m often struck by how many humans—sometimes a noticeable fraction of the population—die in Dr. Who episodes.]

In X-Men, lots of  comic book death, some of which is quite gruesome. Magnetically forcing a quarter through the skull and brain of someone who can’t move made for a fairly horrific and prolonged bit of casual violence.

Janet Jackson accidentally (?) shows a nipple, and the whole country goes apeshit. (“OMG! We never knew she had nipples!!”) But brain salad surgery, hey, no problem, we’ll air that Sunday night sometime.

JJ and JT[I’ve been thinking about guns lately, but there’s a part of me that feels you don’t even get to have the conversation about “gun control” with me until you deal with this fucked up shit.]

Anyway, I had those movies on in the background last night (the latter mostly just because it was on after the former). I’d not seen Battleship, and the effects (of course) were spectacular. The alien weaponry was kind of clever, and it really is impressive to see what CGI can do these days.

It’s just kind of a shame about all the dying and stuff.

Yes, it’s true people died in our Earthquake and in our Towering Inferno, but it was done in a way that made it almost seem most of them miraculously made it out alive. And the effects weren’t as powerful, didn’t take you so thoroughly into the story, didn’t make the death so real, visceral, excitingly bloody.

transistor radioBack then one death seemed to matter more. Now we’re just over-whelmed. Now it’s just another night at the movies or an episode of CSI.

On that note, let me take you back to a more gentle time, a time of vinyl records and transistor radios. A time when it almost seemed possible that, if we could all just calm down and get together, it would all work out. It was a time when it didn’t all seem so damned impossible.  Without further ado, I give you:

Desiderata

Go placidly amidst 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 vexatious 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 shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

~Max Ehrmann, 1927


If you’ve never seen it before, I hope you enjoyed it. It’s one of my all-time most favorite things in the world! It’s one of my go-to pieces, a statement of ideals I try to follow.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

19 responses to “Desiderata

  • Jennifer S

    I had not heard Desiderata before. It’s wonderful. I’ll make a point of remembering. Also had “Bull Durham” on TV this afternoon. We have the same viewing habits.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’m so glad I could introduce you to it! As I said, it’s one of my favorite things; it refreshes my thinking every time I read it (and I’ve read it a lot in 40+ years).

      Bull Durham may be my favorite baseball movie. Definitely my favorite of the three baseball movies Costner made!

  • rarasaur

    I just had a conversation with ClanMother on my blog about Desiderata. So lovely when there is a theme of the moment! The Desiderata was always hanging in my house, no matter how often we moved or where we moved. I had it memorized before I had any real idea what it meant– lovely, lovely piece of writing, thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Great minds think alike? I’ll have to drop by and check out that conversation. Sounds like more fun than whatever I’m supposed to be doing at work.

      Have you heard any of the parodies? I especially like the National Lampoon’s (it’s where I got my “cosmic muffin or hairy thunderer” line). I used to have a link to a site that collected Desiderata versions. I wonder if that site is still around (I wonder where that link is)…

  • Chika Efobi

    Oh wow…I must say that the picture of the sundae made my mouth water (I see the connection between sundae and your sunday, hehehe. I enjoyed reading Desiderata, I must confess that I had not come across it before. Thank you for sharing. I shall in turn share Desiderata 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’m glad you liked it and that I introduced you to Desiderata! The picture was indeed foremost a pun, but also a reference to the idea of a wonderful life “with whip cream and a cherry on top.”

      I see you shared it on your blog! Most excellent!!

  • Desiderata « Twisted in a Positive Way

    […] I found it on a blog called “Logo con carne which is owned by Wyde Smythe. See his blog page here . I found Desiderata to be very deep and thought it wise to share. (I am surprised that I had not […]

  • reocochran

    Did you ever see my post that talked about the Desiderata? It was one of five posters I had on my ceiling walls in my bedroom. I had slanted walls. Anyway, it was on a parchment looking poster. It was and is so beautiful.
    It was interesting to learn about the man who wrote it. I wonder if I mentioned the story. I appreciate your other parts of this post, including the references to peace, non violence, and how we make a big deal out of nudity which doesn’t hurt anyone, and to me, is art sometimes.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I definitely remember the posters and slanted walls. I’m not sure about Desiderata. I can well imagine that when I read that, I would have gone, “Ah, yes, of course!” Did you ever hear the Les Crane recording? At the time he was in California, and I think he was down in L.A. (from S.F.) by then, so he was a “local boy” to us, and the record got a lot of airplay.

      But it did make Top 40 for a while (#8?), so you might have heard it. There are some very funny parodies of Desiderata, too!

  • reocochran

    I probably heard the spoken recording of the Desiderata. Thanks for going back to my posts to find that. I should have said there were only three posters on the walls in high school. I guess I was counting a couple I acquired in college (in above comment that says 5 posters) after the high school years. I always liked the part about everyone has their story. Listening is a skill and each person can add something valuable to our life, if we take the time. Our blogging friends do it all the time!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yep, definitely! That poem has so many gems in it! It’s hard for me to pick a favorite… it might be, “With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.” A good reminder for me!

  • huntmode

    Great piece – Rarasaur referred me over when she saw it on my blog under Best Advice Received. I loved your segway into the Sabbath and then today’s violent fare. I’m particularly fond of “[I’ve been thinking about guns lately, but there’s a part of me that feels you don’t even get to have the conversation about “gun control” with me until you deal with this fucked up shit.]” Thanks! HuntMode at http://www.chasingrabbitholes.com

  • Doobster418

    “a “45” back when that didn’t mean a gun or even a malt liquor.” Great line, by the way.

    Yes, I remember Desiderata from when it was first recorded (not in 1927, but by Les Crane around 1970-71). It is inspirational.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, back then it was credited as anonymous and “found in St. Paul’s Cathedral.” I’m not sure when it started being more correctly attributed.

      It’s also spawned some really funny parodies. National Lampoon had a great one. IIRC, it started out something like, “Go placidly amid the noise and waste and remember what solace there comes from owning a piece thereof.”

      Actually, I sometimes forget this is the modern era… “Oh, mighty Google, can you find [National Lampoon Deteriorata]?” And Google replies:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deteriorata
      http://www.joke-archives.com/poetry/deteriorata.html

      • Doobster418

        “Rotate your tires.” “Strive at all times to bend, fold, staple, and mutilate.” Words to live by, that’s for sure. I can add another: “Drive your car for an hour at least once a week.”

        Thanks for the laugh.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        You bet — laughter has been my #1 most important thing in life since forever. One of my favorite quotes is, “Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.” ~Niels Bohr (who was no bore).

        Game’s about to start… Shields v. MadBum… this is gonna be interesting!

        Was looking at my cross-reference charts (teams playing other teams), and the Giants didn’t play the Royals at all in 2010-2013. They played three games this year — Royals took all three. That was back in August, and those were home games. For the nine-game winning streak, I really want the Royals to win tonight… But against MadBum? Whoo-boy. Fingers crossed!

      • Doobster418

        Well, I’d like to wish you and the Royals good luck, but….

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