Written before I was born, the poem “Desiderata” graced many a college dorm-room door during the ‘60s. Those politically uncertain times tore families apart: Students and professors marched against the Vietnam War, black Americans marched for civil rights, women marched for equality, and always the other side fought to silence us, to keep us down, to put us “in our place.” Still we marched on and continued the struggle, and eventually changed the world. My generation thought those days were behind us, that our children had inherited a more equitable and safe world. But on November 8th, that America died—and in its place arose the ugly specter of our nation’s racist and misogynistic past.
As we recover from this post-election trauma, we must stay engaged and continue to resist. But we also must remember not to live in fear, and to take care of our hearts, our emotions, and our connections to those we love, especially during this holiday season, when we will be surrounded with family and friends—even those who voted for Trump—and our wounds are still fresh and aching.
So I offer Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata” to remind us how to face adversity and opposition with calm and quiet hearts.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, rest in the love of your family and friends, then return invigorated and ready to march for freedom.
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.