The Eternal Wisdom of Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

4 min readJul 5, 2020

My uncle Robert called me out of the blue and we had a rousing heart to heart about all of the things happening in the world right now.

My uncle is one of the people I perhaps respect the most on the entire planet. He’s basically me – 30 years in the future. We are so alike it’s uncanny.

One of the all-time fictional characters that I have always drawn inspiration from is the character of Spock from Star Trek, famously personified by the peerless Leonard Nimoy. Spock is is the ultimate stoic, even keel in his emotions and reactions, very zen in his outlook, able to navigate perilous situations and circumstances while operating according to a mental playbook based on a hyper-ethical set of guiding principles that – more often than not – steer him in the right direction.

Tonight I discovered that Spock is also my uncle Robert’s favourite fictional character. This blew me away, while at the same time making all the sense in the world.

Uncle Robert encouraged me to practice being even more even keel and stoic about everything I’m experiencing.

Not to get too high or too low.

To protect my energy.

To keep my eyes and ears open, to prize learning and seeking out the truth above all else – and to continue to produce and publish.

There are no coincidences. I felt that the universe was talking to me through my uncle. It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I find myself deeply troubled and concerned with the state of affairs on our planet in 2020 – as are so many people.

As our call was coming to an end, Uncle Robert gifted me with the ultimate Steve Jobs-esque “Oh, and one more thing” moment by sending me the famous poem Desiderata penned by the American writer Max Ehrmann.

My uncle said that reading this poem as a young man in the 1970s was a key moment for him, an inflection point, a catalyst that allowed him to achieve Spockian-level perspective and stoicism in the following decades.

Though this poem went on to achieve great acclaim after his death in 1945 – I admittedly had never heard of the Max Erhrmann.

That changed tonight.

Ehrmann’s words have an eternal, timeless quality to them that deeply resonated with me. I particularly needed to hear these words during this difficult time in the world.

I wanted to share them here with the hope that they could possibly help anyone in the same manner that they put me at ease tonight:

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.

– Max Ehrmann, 1927




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