The news is so depressing at the moment that I want to take the recent advice of a famous TV presenter not to look at the big picture. I try to focus instead on the minutiae of the beautiful spring flowers appearing all around us and the pair of blackbirds nesting in our garden, the hen frantically collecting the most interesting things as nesting material. Unfortunately I am distracted by the hovering magpies waiting for any weaker birds (young or old) that they can destroy and I ponder on whether that is an apt metaphor for today’s world. So rather than one of the many cheerful poems which celebrate the joy of spring I think it’s time to fall back on the inspiration of a very famous poem written by Max Ehrman 100 years ago and much publicised by the Peace Movement of the 1960s. I first heard this poem when an international showjumper I met explained he started every day by playing a recording of these 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 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.
Before 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 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 labours 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.
And, as if to emphasise those concluding lines, while I write, the morning sun streams in through the window, bringing warmth, light and hope. The hope that, just as nature produces the wonderful colours of spring from the greyness of winter every year, so Max Ehrman’s “beautiful world” will continue to sustain us.
- Submitted by Gill Gibson-Piggot, WFWI Trustee