Desiderata (Issue 1108)

In which we are reminded to maintain healthy balance and strive to be at peace.

Dinner before the play? Yes, we thought we would and we reserved a table at a restaurant a few minutes’ walk from the theater. Although the afternoon was rainy, the time seemed promising to sit outside. My wife disappeared into the restaurant to request an outside table.

She emerged from the restaurant followed by a smiling, tall hunk of a man carrying menus. I noticed that his right arm was tattooed in crisp calligraphic script from his wrist up past his elbow over his enormous bicep and up under his short shirt sleeve.

“Thank you,” I said as he seated us, “and you have a lot of script on your arm.”

“Yes, I do, it’s a poem. Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata, 1927. One of two for which he’s famous.”

“Wonderful! And how did you choose that poem for your arm?”

“I was working in an office. From time to time, I would meet with the company CFO. I noticed that he had a poem framed on the credenza behind him. So, I found myself looking around him to read the poem. I loved it. So, I would print copies of it and give them away for Christmas presents and like that. And then at some point, I just decided, since I was carrying it around with me all the time, that I would just put it on my arm and carry it around with me all the time. It’s about a way of living.”


“Would you like a copy of it?”

“Yes, please”…. And a few minutes later he returned with a sheet of paper on which he’d printed the poem.

As we watched the play, I kept drifting back to Ehrmann’s piece. So, here it is, in part. I’ll extend the reach of our restaurant host’s arm to you.  [“Desiderata” means “things that are needed or wanted”.]


Desiderata Max Ehrmann 1927

Go placidly amid the noise and the 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…

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….

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…

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.


If you’d like to see the full poem, it’s here at this link.


Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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