so. this is hard for me to approach. the circumstance of my radicalism began when i was but 5 years old.
at age seven, under pressure, i became aware that some adults were dumb-asses. by the sixth grade, age twelve, i saw most things around me lies. i encountered people i thot were good and just behaving not good and not just. i was fully radicalized then.
around that time i stumbled upon the poem “desiderata”. it was a popular poster, and i papered my walls with posters. and, in poster form, it was claimed to be some ancient anonymous text, cited to some boston church — coincidentally i’m in boston tonight, but not at a church. in fact, it was written in 1927 by max ehrmann. i know nought of ehrmann other than the poem.
in conversation just now the line i regard as central came up. and — this is my 58th birthday, so some 40+ years on — i went back to the original. and i read it. and. and, it entirely recapitulates every good day of my life. i say this frankly embarrassed.
what, seriously, this long-forgotten poem, written by an unknown, printed on a poster by some hooker, pinned to my twelve-year-old’s wall with pins i bought myself from mowing lawns, 75 a year, ten bucks for me, the rest for the family kitty?
inebriation being what it is, and me being what i am… yes. yes, this poem still captures almost entirely what i do and who i am. i recite it to you now. further tweets are the poem, until i advise otherwise.
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.
what i have tweeted is very possibly a copyright violation. i’m sure, in that case, to receive stern letters. yeah yeah. i’ve been kicked outta better bars than this, believe me. when some angry person tells me they have to read the poem on the ad-riddled site, i will forward it on to you.
meanwhile, tho. meanwhile. u know i was just 12, right?
alex harms and i have an expression, we use it to express our sympathy for people who are fucking up. “well, she’s just a boy, right?” it’s our way to remind us that we all got here without knowing what to do, and formulate what we can. cc @onealexharms
i stand before you fairly astonished. there is no part of max ehrmann’s poem i would wish to demure. i have spent my life on it i am glad to have done so.