A simple life
Almost always, when I stroll across the beach on an early morning I recite bits of ‘Desiderata’ the prose poem by the largely unknown American writer Max Ehrmann. The Latin meaning ‘desired things’ always makes me wonder of the simpler things in life, the things we take for granted. Those that have followed my tales will know that the way I live is largely due to my father’s simplistic expectations of his own life.
‘Remember what peace there is in silence!’ My father could have written those words himself. Although a colourful and eccentric character, he often retreated into his own world where he sought comfort from silence. I do the same thing but usually through writing or whilst walking through the valley towards the sea.
In 1927, Mr Ehrmann wrote ‘Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are a vexation to the spirit.’ I smile at these words as I stroll across the beach and hear the wild and aggressive waves and loud and aggressive gulls. But somehow this kind of aggression is different. It is part of nature and has the potential to calm the stressful mind. But, I can see where he is coming from; I guess most of you can!
‘But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.’ Again, these words were written by Mr Ehrmann in 1927, many years later, my father said them to me.
‘Don’t worry so much,’ he said frowning down at me as I carried the world upon my shoulders. ‘Be gentle with yourself and let the world unfold the way it’s meant to.’ I can hear him now!
So many wise words are in this poem, which hangs in the bathroom of our home for waifs and strays. So many people have asked me for a copy, to do the very same thing. Perhaps you would like a copy also....
“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.”