Why “Going Placidly”?

The Desiderata was written by Max Ehrmann in 1927.

I first heard of Desiderata when I was 9. My Aunt Mary passed away and my father gave me two things to remember her by: a small wooden San Francisco cable car and a water-damaged poster with the words of Desiderata printed in a faded old style font. I am not currently in possession of either memento. Being 9, I didn’t understand the cable car was a toy to just “look at,” so I drove it around the house until it fell apart. Then, one of my younger sisters pirated the poster (among other things) when I left for college, but I don’t mind, the words left their mark.

When my Father unexpectedly died in 2008, I tattooed 5 sets of footprints around my ankle with the words, “Go Placidly” above them. I think of it as the scar I bear from the emotional trauma I suffered after my Father’s passing.

photo credit: T. Fuller

But, “Go Placidly” is just the beginning, just the first few steps…as I walk, run, dance, skip and stumble through life, I strive to remember the wisdom in all of Ehrmann’s words:


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.

Be yourself. 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 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.


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