Susan's Thursday morning note September 4, 2016 Max Ehrmann Poetry and Prayer on finding beauty in life.
Good morning. Beautiful fleeting moment where the sunlight on the grass glistens because the dew still covers everything. Two doves having fun together making patterns for my entertainment. My angel of dawn has shown again her faithfulness. Peering in my window with a little squirrel as her backdrop. Offering me her encouragement to enter this summer/autumn day. The few days where the seasons mix and don’t know exactly who will win out at the end of this day. So still. How I wish I could walk through a portal and enter the world of my little squirrels this autumn morning. To enjoy this day as they will. To run freely. To smell the dirt. To run into the upper branches and peer down. What a day to be a little squirrel and have the pure joy of life. Into that particular world I cannot enter, but I will try to see life from their perspective today – to look into the trees, to run freely in my mind and feel the joy they feel as they run purely for fun.
The last few weeks I have been reading Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business written over a year’s time on the daily thoughts and stresses of Paul Downs. Paul owns a small business in Philadelphia designing and building custom office furniture. One line has stayed in my mind since closing the book as he sits alone in his office on a Friday afternoon. Words go on paper of all he is dealing with, including family, employees, banks, money, orders. He writes, “My problems are all fighting in my head to see which can bother me the most. A wave of despair washes over me. It’s a physical sensation, one that I’ve felt at intervals over the years. I feel it most when I’m tired, and it’s quiet, and I’m low on cash. I know it will go away because by nature I’m an optimistic person. But while I’m caught in it, I feel very, very bad. Five-thirty rolls around. Nobody has called. None of my problems have been solved. But I start to feel better…”
The thought of my problems fighting for position in my mind. Then the thought of Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata (meaning “to desire”) as another thought that I could mentally try to add to the list to trump all other thoughts. On desiring to see beauty in life. Several years ago Stu shared this poem with me. This poem was found at Adlai Stevenson’s deathbed in 1965. Adlai Stevenson was the governor of Illinois and ran for president against Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, appointed Ambassador to the United Nations by President Kennedy. He had planned on using this poem in his upcoming Christmas letter. Wisdom. The beauty of the gift of life. Following this poem is The Prayer, also by Max Ehrmann. A beautiful prayer to begin this gift.
“Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) (Latin: “To desire”)
Go placidly amidst 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 vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons that 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 shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
“The Prayer” by Max Ehrmann
Let me do my work each day; and if the darkened hours of despair overcome me, may I not forget the strength that comforted me in the desolation of other times.
May I still remember the bright hours that found me walking over the silent hills of my childhood, or dreaming on the margin of a quiet river, when a light glowed within me, and I promised my early God to have courage amid the tempests of the changing years.
Spare me from bitterness and from the sharp passions of unguarded moments. May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit.
Though the world knows me not, may my thoughts and actions be such as shall keep me friendly with myself.
Lift up my eyes from the earth, and let me not forget the uses of the stars. Forbid that I should judge others lest I condemn myself.
Let me not follow the clamor of the world, but walk calmly in my path.
Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am; and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope.
And though age and infirmity overtake me, and I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me still to be thankful for life, and for time’s olden memories that are good and sweet; and may the evening’s twilight find me gentle still.
The grass no longer glistens from the dew. The squirrels have disappeared. The leaves are all stirring now, waking up. My thoughts all seeking for attention. My desire to have this evening’s twilight find me gentle still. Mahatma Gandhi’s words also seek for a place in my list of thoughts. “Each one has to find peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.” Tonight. As I will look back on decisions made today. As thoughts will race for position in my mind as I try to sleep. Will I have words racing that will be worthy of inscription in stone? Today. A gift I will never have the opportunity to replay. No notes in my song of life can be held, but can I mentally stop a few measures? Can I hold a few beautiful thoughts and memories? Will I hear the birds that are singing for me? Will I see the squirrel as he watches me between his runs? Will I look into the eyes of who I meet and try to see their running thoughts and try to give them something to hold onto that will trump all disturbing thoughts? Will I look to the heavens where the promise of peace is given? Will I mentally drop to my knees in prayer and find the peace and strength to find the beauty all around?
Thank you for letting me again enter your Thursday morning. I hope you can come over to the store soon. To enter this real portal. To be handed a smile, a friendship, and walk away with a book whose words may change your thoughts. Change your life. “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 it’s shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” Susan
Latin for this week: vita haec bella - Life is beautiful. Semper naturam tuam sequere - Always be true to yourself. non semper erit aestas - Life is more than just being alive.
Works Cited: Downs, Paul. Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business. New York. Random House. 2015.