From Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata:

“Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.  But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.”

Ehrmann’s exhortation hits home, as it reveals how, in a setting where the misdeeds of people, particularly public figures, are public knowledge, it becomes easy to become jaded and cynical.  This is particularly true when there seems to be a lack of remorse, or for that matter, significant consequences, for the misdeeds.  But there I go again being judgmental.  More importantly, Ehrmann is pointing out the indirect cost of such misdeeds.  While the misdeeds of a person may directly impact another person or a group, the larger shadow cast is the one that can make those not directly affected become jaded and cynical, make them oblivious, or at least less open to the reality that “many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life if full of heroism.”  That is, or course, Ehrmann’s point.  While “the world is full of trickery” it is also full or persons with “high ideals” and “heroism.”

I particularly like Ehrmann’s equating “high ideals” with “heroism.”  It becomes too easy to limit heroism to people who run into burning buildings and such, but it occurs to me that it is also heroism to do what Ehrmann suggests, to sort through all the crap coming at you in life yet continue to “strive for high ideals.”  There is heroism in a simple action intended to relieve someone’s burden, an act of kindness, or continuing on in your efforts when you would just as soon quit.  There is heroism in a smile, a kind word, or in some circumstances, just doing nothing when what you really want to do is to react or lash out.

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