Modern words from the past
I read recently that no one wants to read a blog post over 500 words. Oops. I hope you’ll indulge me in this one!
When our church newsletter landed on the doormat the other day, along with a Monthly Musing from a certain Winwick Mum whom you may have heard of ;-), it contained a poem that I have never read before.
It was written in 1927 by an American poet called Max Ehrmann and it is called
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 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.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical 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 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 careful. Strive to be happy.
Isn’t that lovely? It’s just the right sort of poem for our church newsletter, but as I read it, it reminded me of something that I had heard much more recently.
In the last form tutor session that big daughter had before she left school, there was an exchange of presents; from the pupils to the teacher, a kind, no-nonsense sort of lady who has nurtured and guided them from year 7 to now, and from the teacher to her students. After having received her watch and scrapbook full of memories put together by her class, Mrs Gilbert gave each of them a CD, a compilation of songs that she said were to listen to, dance to, or wonder what on earth she’d put them on the CD for. It was quite clear to me, as big daughter and I bounced around the room to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, grinning at each other like Cheshire cats, that Mrs Gilbert had put quite a bit of thought into her choices.
The first song was Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann and as we paused for breath to listen to it again, I knew that it struck more chords with me than with big daughter. It’s not that she doesn’t understand it, or isn’t interested in what it says, it’s just that sometimes you need to be a few years older before things make sense. And it reminded me very much of Desiderata. See what you think …
Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine
Don’t worry about the future or worry, but know that worrying
Is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation
By chewing bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things
That never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours
Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself
Remember compliments you receive
Forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22
what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium, be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s
Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own,
Even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly
Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future
Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For the older you get, the more you need the people
You knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft
Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you, too, will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders
Respect your elders
Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out
Don’t mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85
Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth
But trust me on the sunscreen
The language is much more modern than Desiderata, but are the sentiments really that different? I don’t think so. History, in many forms, repeats itself.