Desiderata–You Are a Child of the Universe

Sitting on beach
Child of the Universe

Happy Saturday and last day of February, 2015! I had to share this post again with this back story.

I had some business on my university campus last summer and as I stood in line, a young woman in front of me sported a tattoo with some of the words from this poem: “You are a child of the universe…” Both our jaws dropped when I asked her if this was from Desiderata, then finished the sentence, “…no less than the trees and the stars…” I was surprised I remembered it.

She must have picked up the poem from her parents, so much so that she dedicated those words onto her shoulder and upper arm. Truly a throwback to the seventies!

If you were around in the 1970s, this poem was so popular it became a song on the radio. If you were a hippie in the 1970s this was also on your 8-track.

Read this, it is as meaningful today as it was in the 70s, and as it was when it was originally written (1920s).

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 to the dull and 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 or 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’s 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 in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

 Author – Max Ehrmann (1872 – 1945)

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About this poem:

Desiderata was apparently written between 1906 & 1920 by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) who copyrighted the piece in 1927. The confusion about authorship of this poem is due to its distribution by Reverend Frederick Kates within a collection of works for his congregation in 1959.  The church notepaper was headed “The Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore, AD 1692”. As the poem became more widely circulated, it came to be assumed that the poem originated in this old church which was founded in 1692.

30 thoughts on “Desiderata–You Are a Child of the Universe

    • I don’t know why this struck me yesterday as I was surfing through blogs. Another blogger had posted some pics of a beautiful girl and I thought I saw “child of the universe” written in there somewhere. Aha! Desiderata! Enjoy! I’ve been humming the song all night 🙂

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  1. Sometime in early elementary school this poem was used as part of holiday presentation. I had to memorize the “If you compare yourself to others” stanza, and then stand up in front of all the other kids and parents and recite it. I was very shy, and scared to talk in front of others. I did it, didn’t forget anything, and felt good when it was done. Thanks for reminding me of that, and putting a smile on my face!

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  2. Yes, I remember this (from those times…). I even remember a parody version offered by National Lampoon. It was a good reminder to “Strive to be Happy”.
    I remember something about “Hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin” and “Take heart amid the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese.”
    Lightly,
    Vincent

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  3. Enjoyed revisiting desiderata , which I first sighted over a decade ago when a friend conveyed it to me as a farewell message . the lines are almost prayer-like , edifying and uplifting the spirit….best wishes…raj

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  4. I remember this well although I’m more a child of the 60s than the 70s. I became part of the hippie culture not by age but by participation! hahahaha… guess I still am. Thanks for the post. I hadn’t seen the poem in a long time.

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  5. I have always loved this it has always had the effect of quietening my mind and tongue and helps me to focus on the amazing gifts found in silence, must make sure to read it more often so happy to have come across this again here. Kind regards Kathy.

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  6. My niece (a neo-hippy) is in a horrible relationship. I think much of the problem has stemmed from abysmal self-esteem, believing someone has to rescue her, not understanding how important it is for her to rescue herself. I made her a journal and wrote one line of this on every other page and gave her directions for reflecting on the line at the top of the page. To my great surprise (and happiness!) it seems to be helping her wake up to the fact that she is a valuable person and needs to take action to protect herself and her future. I don’t even like it that much, honestly. It became so cliché back in the day. Still that does not diminish its usefulness or power or truth.

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    • That was a great idea for a journal. So many of the verses help me with random things even 40 years later. I would recall one line “gracefully surrendering the things of youth” as I got older to discard old toys, etc. Very freeing. Thanks for your comment!

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  7. Maybe this song didn’t get much air time in 1970s Arkansas? Portions of it seemed familiar, but I had never heard the whole thing until now; much wisdom here. (I love your new Profile picture, by the way!)

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