Poetry has played such an important role in telling the story of humanity. It illuminates the commonality of our human experience, connecting us through the power of words.
To celebrate, I want to share one of the poems that has shaped my perception of life. The first time I read this poem in its entirety, I was sitting in a counselor’s office looking for a way to keep breathing after the death of my son. It was in a beautiful frame, and I had time to sit and read it as I waited for the counselor to help me work through the most painful experience in my life.
The simplicity and honesty collided with my shattered heart. At the time, in the depths of grief, I had this acute awareness of what really mattered in life. We’ve all been there; life gives you a big ole kick in the teeth, and you find that your view of life has completely changed. The minutia stripped away, your life turned upside down, you return to the knowledge that has been within you since birth, within all of us since the beginning of time. Life is all about love, kindness and compassion. The rest is minutia.
I read it that day, wondering how I had made it so far in life without these words to inspire me. I read it a second time, using it as a self-assessment tool of my strengths and shortcomings. Years later, I continue to return to these words, as a gentle reminder of the person I wish to be. It also reminds me of how broken I was that day, and how far I’ve come. I don’t want to forget that.
Take some time today and read some poetry. 🙂
By: Max Ehrman
Words for Life
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.
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.
Strive to be happy.