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Opening Arguments


Terre Haute is raising money to erect a statue of Max Ehrmann, a lawyer and sometimes poet who died in 1945. He is best known for the poem "Desiderata" (no, it was not found in Old St. Paul's Church, as the myth had it back in the hippie days). We of the flower-child-naif persuasion were fond of quoting a particular passage:

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.

That sounds pretty profound until you read it once or twice with, um, a clear head and realize it doesn't mean a damn thing. Universe unfoldin' all right today? Dunno, but there she goes, and, by the way, don't ever question my right to be here. The rest of the poem, well, unfolds with the same bland passiveness as the "Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence" opening line. Enjoy your achievements and keep interested in your own career. Well, sure, OK. Exercise caution, for the world is full of trickery. Who says I'm paranoid? Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant. No, no, don't think so, not today. The sad thing is that so many people took us as seriously as we took ourselves when we spouted such nonsense.

Posted in: History, Hoosier lore