Hello to all! I hope you all are finding your way well through this strange and disturbing time in America and the World. The alarming and dangerous, deadly virus that is wreaking havoc throughout the world in 2020 seems to be threatening every aspect of human life, upending and, in some cases, destroying the very foundations of our collective sanity and peace of mind.
Like everyone else, I too seek a return to the time of being able to rely on the social fabric of life to sustain and maintain my general sense of well-being and optimism. There is no question that we all live through difficult events and circumstances throughout our lives, however this current world status is particularly difficult, since we are all living through it simultaneously. And it clearly can be, and has been, devastating.
As often happens, I inadvertently stumble across moments of assurance and affirmation, despite being in the middle of circumstances that really do threaten chaos and despair. These moments often arise from a connective thread to my past, triggered by a moment or a memory resurrected by a random event. It seems random to me, at least. So it may not surprise you to learn that I recently did stumble into such a state of mind.
I have noticed in the last several years that I am quite susceptible to my personal memories and interpretations of past events from a different emotional point of view than I originally experienced at the time. It is something akin to re-watching a favorite movie or re-reading a beloved book for the second or third time, or more. You begin to realize and more fully understand why a particular experience in your past holds such critical importance and relevance for you now.
My very recent stumble involved dealing with a moment of boredom. That feeling is not exclusively sourced from current virus-related circumstances, however I found myself flipping through TV channels on a Sunday evening. Frankly, due to the virus-related impacts we are suffering through, even TV is often bereft of interesting choices. It just so happens that I came across a broadcast of the Johnny Cash show. You can read more about Mr. Cash from the link, but suffice it to say that his show was on during my teenage years and my parents liked to watch his mixture of Country music, popular guest stars, and his talking narratives of American life. As a family in the growing-up years, we often watched certain TV shows together, all of us, at the same time. In our American culture, that kind of gathering has truly been relegated to the past for a long time. However, given the virus impact in the present day, families are discovering the value of doing so once again.
Watching this particular episode of The Johnny Cash Show, I was reminded of those days when our family did watch together. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, what it meant to me, what it would mean to me in my adult life with my own children, how I would lean on those days, not just of watching TV together, but growing up in a loving household, hearing the words and seeing the actions of my parents and learning how to truly be a man and a human being.
During this edition of the Cash show, one of the guests was an actor named Lorne Green who was a popular TV actor and who had a wonderful baritone speaking voice. His appearance on the show involved reading aloud a wonderful poem from the 1920s called Desiderata, written by American author Max Ehrmann. The word Desiderata is the Latin phrase for ‘Things Desired’. I have included the poem here since I feel it is not only tied to my past, but is a very assuring and affirming thought for how we could strive to be in the upside down world we find ourselves today in 2020.
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 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.
By Max Ehrmann © 1927