Beyond a wholesome discipline
be gentle with yourself
You are a child of the Universe
no less than the trees and the stars.
~Max Ehrmann (1927)
For those who’ve never actually read Desiderata in its entirety, the first line of the section above is often omitted when it’s used for inspirational quotes. I find that this functions to give people tacit permission to behave badly, to be emotionally lazy or selfish, to not try. That galls me.
It was over a giant bowl of pho in an unprepossessing Vietnamese restaurant along Albuquerque’s main drag that a familiar stranger showed myself to me. The pho was destined to become leftovers, christened “Ralph,” and between one moment and the next, this man defined as gentleness what most people perceive only as an unyielding brand of strictness in me.