March 22, 2017 – Desiderata – things desired
It’s all gotten to me lately – the state of the world, especially as depicted by the news media, the political situation, the divisiveness and outrage that seems to be everywhere. I’ve been finding myself uncharacteristically depressed, wondering what the point really is to life. Please don’t worry about me; I’m not in any danger. I’m not at all lost – my inner witness is alive and well and taking notice of all of it. But, still it’s been no fun inside me. I’ve always been a pretty up-beat person. For most of my life I’ve generally sought out the optimistic position. From that perspective, I’ve looked about to see what’s good and helpful about what is. But these times are challenging my sunny nature in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve been reading about “highly sensitive people” and taken a couple of quizzes online. According to the results I’m not off-the-charts sensitive, but I am on the spectrum. So I’ve been asking myself how I need to best operate in light of this.
Betsey made mention in the last little while that she’s become scrupulous about what appears in her email inbox. Then I read an email written by a politician who I admire and greatly appreciate who said that all the appearances, letters and phone calls are working. To which I thought to myself “Great! People are showing up. And since they’ve got putting the pressure on covered, I am free to do what only I can, which is make my particular kind of beauty and be love in the world.” This was the impetus to do what Betsey has done with my inbox. All these messages telling me how broken the world is have been weighing down my heart. Even if I wasn’t reading the messages, the subject lines are getting into my brain before I could delete them.
So, starting last week, I’ve been systematically unsubscribing myself from anything that doesn’t lift my spirits. Anything. I’ve overridden the voices that have told me that I should stay informed and have removed myself from all organizations that are working to “right the wrongs” of the world: political, environmental and human rights. Then there are all those who want to help me become a huge success selling my art – since I’m not doing all the things they recommend, these messages beat me with a stick – gone! Those run of the mill retailers wanting to sell me stuff of any kind – they are gone too. When asked why I’m unsubscribing, I’m telling them I just need a rest. I figure they will wriggle their way back in eventually. But for now, I want to hear nothing from any of them.
On top of this, I’ve not cracked open the newspaper, except to read the review of “Beauty and the Beast” on Friday, and the Food and Pink sections of the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday. I’ve not been listening to NPR in the car, but rather music on Pandora or an audiobook. I’m already noticing a lightness dawning in me – especially when I open my inbox. For starters, there are far fewer emails – reducing my overwhelm!
Since nature abhors a vacuum, it’s not surprising that something else has already crept into the space in my consciousness – a piece of writing I first read more than thirty years ago. I took French and a class in Greek and Latin word derivations (which woke up the word-nerd in me!) from Guerard Piffard at San Diego State. At the end of each semester he gave each of his students a copy of Desiderata beautifully printed on parchment paper in a calligraphy type with colored illuminations. Though this copy said it was from a church in Baltimore dated 1592, Desiderata was written in 1927 by a writer-poet, Max Ehrmann who lived in Terre Haute, Indiana. It became well known in the 70’s when it was published as an inspirational poster.
I put the Desiderata Prof. Piffard gave me in a frame that sat on a little table in the entry way of my first house, in my first marriage. At his request, I left it behind for my ex-husband when we split up. Though I don’t have my professor’s gift anymore, I do have Max Ehrmann’s words in me. Something in the last few days told me to look it up again and I’m working on learning it by heart.
If read through a cynical mind, one could attribute its popularity to the burgeoning new age when it came into the mainstream and read it as trite and Pollyanna. It doesn’t help that people have written versions of it for lovers of cats, dogs, horses and babies. But, the way I see it, the consciousness of the collective caught up to Max Ehrmann’s and people resonated with it. Regardless of how they’ve been watered down and made commonplace, these words written 90 years ago are a salve to my soul – especially these: “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
As I mentioned last week, I’m also reading about the law of three and the Christian Trinity, which figures in here. The law of three says that when there are two opposing forces (affirming and denying), a third force (reconciling) arises to bring a fourth state in a new dimension. I’m called to be – I’m called to live as a third force person – neither affirming nor denying, but reconciling. And I’m trusting that the conflict has its purpose – it’s just that I’m not one to take part in the back and forth of it – at least not at this point.
You could say I’m rationalizing burying my head in the sand, but I’m certain that I am not. The law of three tells us that intensity of the conflict means we are headed for a whole new world that will ultimately be better for all of us. And my intuition tells me that we won’t take a linear path as we head there and along the way it will continue to be rough-going – it will likely get even worse before it gets better. The necessary reconciling third force must come from somewhere, so there’s a need for some of us to stay out of the fray – emotional and otherwise – and faithfully hold out hope for the future. As a sensitive, I cannot do this taking in a steady diet of all the conflict.
When I was in despair last week, I told my Sister Mary that if the world were devoid of beauty, I’d not want to keep on living. She reminded me that this is my job – I’m on the beauty beat. I know I’m not alone – my guess is many of you are too. If your soul is asking you to back away from the fray, I invite you to join me and keep yourself from the non-stop info machines. I’m certain that if there’s something we really need to know, some way we are really needed to show up, someone will let us know.
Desiderata in Latin means “things desired.” I’m pretty certain that a better world is what everyone, everywhere wants. And regardless of which of the three forces someone operates from, Desiderata, these “things desired” are supportive. Thank you, Max Ehrmann, for the life you lived, the words you wrote and how these words continue to bring us strength and hope.
With my love,
Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and the 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 to 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 or 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 in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.