A list of things for a fuller life.

Max Erhmann’s 91-year-old poem is a call to be genuine, empathetic, and perhaps most importantly, human.

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.

For as long as I can remember, those opening lines from Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata have stuck with me.
In an age where the formula for happiness is directly correlated with working harder, the entire piece of prose is a tonic for the hurried, relentless pace of life.
It’s a call to be genuine, empathetic, and perhaps most importantly, human.
For millenials making their first forays into adulthood, it’s a reminder to tap into the oft-forgotten practices of reflection and introspection.
As a “turbulent teen” the poem bore little value to me, but as I entered my mid-twenties, the poem’s value became clear. It was a call to be a pragmatic optimist — an oxymoron at first glance, but a philosophy that’s served me well in the subsequent years.
And as my circles changed, as my friends got married, had kids, travelled the world and bought cars and houses, one stanza in the poem stood firm:
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.

Erhmann’s seminal work runs counter to almost everything that dominates popular culture today, yet remains as true and relevant as the day it was first penned.
As the writer reminds us:
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

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