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Desiderata (wikipedia.org)
148 points by kghose on Feb 6, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 39 comments

For those who find the original poem's advice too daunting, you may have better luck as a devotee of National Lampoon's parody, Deteriorata: http://plodplod.blogspot.com/2006/07/deteriorata.html

For example:

> Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself; and heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys.


>Be comforted, that in the face of all irridity and disillusionment, and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance.

As far as "words to live your life by", I've never found anything better than "If", by Rudyard Kipling: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If—

The two are quite similar, but "If" feels like it acknowledges human failing more openly that Desiderata. At least to me.

Sad fact: He wrote it for his dead son.

EDIT: My "sad fact" might be wrong.

There are a number of interesting links from that page, including Invictus, but perhaps the most interesting is the reference to this from Theodore Roosevelt (which has a wonderful connection to Rugby and Nelson Mandela):

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


I'm going to give that link to my teenage son who aspires to be a national level Rugby player! :-)

Yep, that was the passage that Nelson Mandela gave to Francois Pienaar before the final, not Invictus. I'm not sure why Eastwood chose to use the latter poem instead.

If- was written in 1895. I believe his son was born a couple years later. Maybe confusing it with "My Boy Jack"?

the stuff in "If" is far too hard to live by, surely?

IMVHO, it definitely is, but it's a good list of things to aspire to.

Aim high! Where ever you land should be ok.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss

Show me a startup founder that could do that without blogging about it.

The title revision is less clear. The original title, along the lines of "How to live life at any age" I believe was referencing a post from earlier yesterday titled along the lines of "How to live your 20's".

The larger conversation (and intent of the post) is lost now.

That was indeed my frame of mind when I linked this.

I like this, even though I tend not to like pithy life advice. Granted, it's usually poorly-written compared to this (think the sort of stuff you might see on your Facebook feed), but life is too complicated, has too many circumstances and exceptions, for good, general, actionable advice to exist, like, at all. So when I do enjoy single-line observations, it's because they powerfully communicate something I already understand. Or, even better, they bring forward something I understood all the pieces of but had yet to put together.

I feel that the value in a poem like this is not that it teaches you how to live life, but that it gives you a tool to keep in mind good general principles. A sort of mnemonic device for consciousness.

"[Pithy life advice is] usually poorly-written compared to this (think the sort of stuff you might see on your Facebook feed)"

So true, and yet, the first thing I did after reading it was to post it in my Facebook timeline.

This is wonderful -'Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time'

We'll all read it, nod head in agreement, maybe even have an afterthought and a moment later just forget about it :)

This is not necessarily true. There are a number of poems whose lines play through my head at critical moments in my life.

Although most people will "one ear out the other" with something like this, it'll affect a few permanently.

The best (and worst) side of words will do this.

Well, I bookmarked it, so I'm good right?

Kind of sad that in some versions cheerful is changed to careful.

This has been a personal favorite of mine. I often write snippets of it on post it notes around my desk..."go placidly amid the noise and haste..."

Reminds me a lot of Baz Luhrmann's "Sunscreen" (or rather, Baz Luhrmann's "Sunscreen" reminds me a lot of this)

Except always wearing sunscreen is not timeless and universal. Lots of studies suggest we shouldn't be wearing any in many parts of the world.

Wearing sunscreen is likely the least important part of the speech.


ahem Mary Schmich's "Sunscreen".

cough "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" [1] cough

[1] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-schmich-su...

"Wear Sunscreen" is listed in the "Parodies" section of the linked wikipedia page -- seemed like a stretch to call that a parody...

"You are what you love, not what loves you." - Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman

In context: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfGtwkq5sC0

I gave this to my parents as a birthday gift, one of my favorite writings on life wisdom and finding inner peace. There's so much written on self help, yet this summarizes it all well. Various stanzas keep coming up in different situations and it keeps making me remember how to handle that situation. There's so many -isms out there that everyone fights about but this combines the most basic, common sense elements of them all.

Funny, about half the links I've put in comments end up as submissions soon later (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5119372). I'm not saying people are using my comments as fodder, just a funny coincidence.

Guess I have to start making submissions!

Desiderata has a special meaning for people with background in Health Informatics: http://www.cs.man.ac.uk/~jeremy/HealthInf/RCSEd/terminology-...

"Tread gently on anyone who looks at you sideways." Words to live by...


Here's a Lazyboy song that has most of Desiderata's principles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLncHifCu1w

Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings with Desiderata, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dPDO3Tfab0

My grandfather had this poem framed and hanged in his home office and has since been cherished in the family (especially after he passed away). Also a personal favorite.

Funny, I had a copy of this on my wall as a kid, 20+ years ago. I reread it today, and the words are still ones worth living by.

Now I don't feel so left out :-) I memorized it when I was 13 because I saw it on the wall every day.

"...listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story"

Wow, this is a really, really, really great way to think.

"Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - Bill Nye

Sometimes a simple sentence can change your whole outlook.

I fucking LOVE this.

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