November 29, 2010

Warning: A Disgustingly, Unabashedly Schmaltzy, Love-Mongering, Cheesy Post.

‘Cause I Think We Could All Use a Little Encouragement.

When I was little, my Mom and I had a weekly ritual. On Saturday mornings, we’d hop in the car and run all over town doing errands, from the bank to the post office to the grocery store. Sometimes the sheer length of our to-do list made us tense. But what always got us through it was a little cassette my Mom made when she worked at a radio station. It was mostly Motown and we called it our “Saturday Tape.” We knew every track by heart and sang along at the top of our lungs, harmonizing where we could.

The very first track was our favorite, though. It was the soulful 1972 rendition of Max Ehrmann’s poem, “Desiderata.” Among its many suggestions for a happier life, the poem (whose title means “desired things”) reminds the listener, “you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here.”

I feel privileged to have grown up with such idealistic encouragements swimming through my thoughts. As an adult, though, I often get so caught up in the monumental task of taking myself and my stressful life seriously that I forget how helpful a bit of positivity can be. Particularly during the holiday season, which can be hectic and even painful for many of us, I thought I might share these kind suggestions for being gentle with ourselves.

So here’s the song—the very version we listened to in the car. The video’s unbearably cheesy (there are worse, believe me)—but I hope you find some comfort in the message, however innocent.

I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use the reminder.

“Desiderata” was written by Max Ehrmann of Terre Haute, Indiana in 1927.

Les Crane’s musical version was a #8 Billboard hit in the US in 1972.

Full text:

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 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 sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

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