News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 31, 2013

Editorial: Toward a happy 2014 — ‘Go placidly …’ —

As you ponder the coming year, ‘keep peace with your soul’

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Creating a litany of new year’s resolutions is a time-honored exercise. Everyone, at one time or another, has done it. Whether it eventually produces results may be the ultimate test of its value.

On a fundamental level, resolutions are unique and personal. They reflect where an individual is in his or her life at any given time.

But there are more general principles — resolutions, if you will — that often get overlooked. They provide a path for living life to the fullest, for pursuing or seeking happiness.

For most people, those resolutions are difficult to put into words.

But Max Ehrmann was not most people. A native son of Terre Haute, Ehrmann was an early 20th century attorney, businessman and author. And it was his writing, one short piece to be precise, that earned him fame far beyond the borders of his hometown.

Ehrmann may not have meant for his poem “Desiderata” (Latin for “desired things”) to be a set of new year’s resolutions, but they most certainly fit that billing.

“Desiderata” was written in 1927, but its sentiments have more than survived the test of time. They are now immortalize at the corner of Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue in downtown Terre Haute, where Ehrmann spent many hours on a park bench observing life in all its transformations. A bronze statue of Ehrmann himself on that park bench now graces the plaza on the northwest corner of the iconic “Crossroads of America” intersection.

As we welcome 2014, we republish Max Ehrmann’s famous words and wish all our readers a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

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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.