Desiderata for Freethinking Infidel Skeptics

Introduction: Desiderata

Max Ehrmann's 1927 Desiderata, like many articles, books, prose poems and plays, made quite an impression when I first encountered it. But, not in a good way - I found the Desiderata annoying. For starters, it’s thick with oxymorons, those maddening links of opposites that literally cancel separate interpretations. Desiderata, by the way, is Latin for things to be desired; the word deteriorata is a portmanteau of desiderata and the verb to deteriorate. (This insight was provided by Wikipedia.) Knowing these things will help you master the material as you continue reading.

If you want to get in just the right mood for feeling serene as you peruse my take on Desiderata, watch this 4 minute video produced in 1972 by National Lampoon:

A true work of inspired genius...and funny as hell...which reveals to everyone that the most important aspect of life is to know your place in the enormous scheme of things...enjoy and ponder its simple truths outright hilarity. "Deteriorata" was performed by The National Lampoon on "National Lampoon Radio Dinner," a 1972 recording by Blue Thumb Records.

Perhaps you have forgotten the original. If so, you can refresh your memory, below. If you remember it only too well, you can skip this refresher and go to the next section entitled Updated Desiderata.

Desiderata (© Max Ehrmann, 1927)

   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 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 careful. Strive to be happy.

Updated Desiderata

Now I think you might be ready for my new, hipper and REAL weller version of Desiderata suitable for 2013 and beyond.

My version, while inspired (kind of) by the original, is modified for clarity, variety, currency, common sense and a REAL wellness slant.

   Be centered in the middle of panic, and don't forget: Keeping your trap shut can be wise.

   Make friends with everybody, provided he/she is not a grievous planetary toxin like Michelle Bachmann. In the case of Congressional Republican/Tea Party’s stalwarts of the 80-member suicide caucus, don’t even try to make nice. There is no hope. All were elected in Right Wing districts gerrymandered to guarantee the rise of politicians afflicted with conservative personality disorders (CPDs). These people believe the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will create death panels and pave the way for the Administration to confiscate guns, declare war on Christmas and ban prayer in churches.

   Tell it right and in plain English; encourage others to do likewise, even if they are Republicans like Ted Cruz. Abandon all hope for reason.

   Avoid low-lifes - they will lead you astray. (See the two preceding bullet points.)

   Don't compete with the Jones's. This is a loser's game; Shoot, there will always be countless others who are younger, thinner, prettier, richer or more popular people than you. Be grateful you’re alive and do the best you can.

   Try to win fair and square but know it can’t happen all the time. Be graceful when you don’t win.

   Don't neglect your career, even if it is the pits. The way things are going, even this kind of work may pan out someday.

   Trust nobody - crooks are everywhere. Of course, some folks are OK and a few are even honorable. What's more, heroic deeds are performed all over the place.

   Just act natural-like. Never fake it - and don't knock romance; in the midst of thirst and famine there is always an oasis. Pay attention to old geezers and act your age.

   Build reserves for coming disasters but don't be paranoid about it. Your worries are mostly in your head.

   Exercise vigorously, but get sufficient rest.

   You are a kid of the cosmos - same as armadillos and planets, you belong. It may come as news to you, but the fact is that universal energies are in harmony. All is as was intended. Make peace with the fact that there is no force, source, super being or supreme creator out there to curry favor and, the cacophony of existence, be one with yourself.

   In the slough amidst the heartbreak and hopelessness, loveliness and splendor can be found. Pay attention. Commit to joy.


As noted in the video, You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here and whether you can hear it or not, the universe is laughing behind your back.

Still, believe it or not, there are probably people who love you.

So, be well, pick up every jewel of joy that can be found in your path (Ingersoll) and look on the bright side of life.