Inspirational Thinking

“What we pay attention to, and how we pay attention,
determines the content and quality of life.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2003)

Desiderata

Max Ehrmann, 1927

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 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 perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to 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 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.


Note: Although often said to have been found in Old St. Paul’s Church, Baltimore, and dated 1692, this poem was written by attorney and businessman Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) of Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1927.His widow, Bertha K. Ehrmann, renewed the original copyright in 1954.

According to a 1977 story by Washington Post reporter Barbara J. Katz, Rev. Frederick Ward Kates, rector of Old St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore in the late 1950s, mimeographed an unsigned copy of this and numerous other inspirational poems to distribute to worshippers. The copies were printed on the church’s letterhead, which read “Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore, A.D. 1692,” the year the church was founded.

Presumably some of the copies were carried from the church and eventually became widely circulated, with the significance of the original letterhead becoming obscured.

In the 1960s, America’s “flower children” popularized the poem they thought was a centuries-old message of peace and love. Both the poem’s popularity and the confusion surrounding its origin persist.