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Reader comment on Max Ehrmann's passage ...

Go Placidly Amid the Noise and Haste


On Jul 28, 2006 Pavi wrote:

Notes From A Circle of Sharing:


To relate the quote to my own life- I’ve been working for this new company at a new job and it’s been interesting to see how I’ve been put in positions where I’m expected to know what others don’t- there’s a pressure that comes from that- and the realization that in order to be useful you have to essentially ‘go placid’- and learn to have faith in what’s unfolding.

Also that part about taking counsel from the years- it recently occurred to me in this way when I was doing dishes and asked my wife if she felt like she’d ‘arrived’- she asked me the same question back, and in that moment, I actually did. And maybe ‘taking counsel from the years’ is really about - re-arriving in every moment. Which reminds me of the ‘Waking Life’ quote: “ The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure, while always arriving- saves on introductions and goodbyes.”


  • To me happiness isn’t something to be pursued- it’s something that ensues. There’s lots of fixation over wanting to ‘be happy’. Seeking it outside. The part of the passage that stayed with me was the part that says- ‘Be peaceful’. Peace is a state of being from which one can allow things to pass through- whether it’s happiness or sadness. And that state is more valuable than trying to seek happiness.

  • Inspite of broken dreams and everything ‘it’s still a beautiful world’ I really like that.


  • One of the things you do most often- that you know you do- is comparing yourself to other people- it’s conscious. It seems like there's pressure to act a certain way. And when you're a teenager you're not sure sometimes whether you’re supposed to act like a kid or an adult- so not comparing is about being yourself not trying to be what you're “supposed to"

  • This reminds me of a story: Avery dedicated student goes to a monk to find peace. And the monk says to him- “I’m not who you're looking for,” and he tells him to go visit a certain king. The student is disappointed but he goes and he finds the king is busy with various cultural festivities being held. But the king gives him his chariot to travel around town in for two weeks and says- “Just do me this one favor- take this lamp with you as you travel around and enjoy the sights and just make sure it doesn’t blow out”. Two weeks later the student returns and the king asks him- “So how was the party?” And the student replies, “What party? You gave me this task- and all I know is the lamp is still on!” Shows you that peace doesn't depend on what’s happening outside.

  • Several weeks ago I went to visit my parents, they’ve just moved back to the States and they were taking things out of storage that had been in storage for 8 years. They had me go through boxes and boxes of this “noise” if you will- boxes of stuff that was just marked Boy’s Room Boy's Room Boy’s Room. Things from all the way back in kindergarten and all the years after that- basically my whole life in these boxes and I had to sort through them and decide what to keep and what to let go of. How to decide what to keep- I threw away so much stuff- it was an exercise in finding peace.

  • To me happiness is talking to my mom. For my peers talking to your mom includes gossip- did you wash your clothes, and that kind of stuff- but this morning on the phone she goes- “Whichever part of the body there is pain- the pain is felt only in the brain”.

  • This quote touched me in so many ways. I love the focus on placidity. When I am that things feel richer and better.

  • Every single line is a gem. You find yourself going- Wow. Wow. Wow. I especially loved the line that said, “whether or not it is clear to you the universe is unfolding as it should.”

  • I liked the part about going easy on yourself. I’m my own worst critic and the harder I am on myself the harder I am on everyone around me.

  • Happiness lies in what other people perceive of you. How do you get over thinking like this?

  • I really liked this quote because it was optimistic but not preachy, I found myself thinking about what a balanced state of mind he must have been in to write this. I was reminded of a time when Bo Lozoff was visiting and we were having dinner. He was telling us about a 40-day retreat that he had done and at one point he said it was so intense so that all he could do was- pray. I asked him what he prayed for- and he said that he didn’t harm anyone. I thought that was such an interesting way of looking at prayer. Generally there is a selfish element to it. Recently that’s something I’ve been asking myself- is I really consciously living? Are there negative ramifications to any of my thoughts, speech or actions?

  • This world is a beautiful place.... In California we don't see it because we’re so busy commuting, thinking of work and all that- my cousin came to visit and since he was driving I got to see what the bay area looked like. I told him “Hey I’ve never seen those hills before!” I’ve tried to notice more and more things since then...and I realize that I notice more when I’m not thinking of other things- or when I’m silent.

  • About the comparisons that are a problem that’s not going to go away because this society is based on comparisons. When you apply for a job or to college or make an offer for a house you’re going to be compared with others. It’s foolish to ignore that reality. But the way I see it- everyone is not better than you in every single respect. Each of us is better in one way or the other- health or service etc. So we’re free to choose one or two fields of endeavor to excel in.

  • The part about listening resonated with me. Everyone has a story no matter who they are- the other day on quote-a-day I got so engrossed in reading about the biography project- everyone really does have a story.

  • “Strive to be happy,” he says. As a father and pet owner I see two creatures in my house everyday who aren't striving for happiness at all- they just- Are. We all had that ability at one point and then we lost it along the way. I think it’s not about striving to be something- it's about dropping things to get back to that natural state that we all have.

  • Such an honest, simple approach. A real contrast to most of the thoughts we read with their eloquently worded, philosophical musings. This was very direct and I was reminded of the last lines of one of Robert Frost’s poems. “The woods are lovely dark and deep, But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.” I found myself wondering how this writer would have phrased the same thing- probably something like; “Don’t get distracted. Be serious in your work.”

  • If happiness was really All in the mind then we'd just all lie down right where we were wouldn’t we, and be dead in three weeks from not eating.

  • Dogs can teach you what happiness is.

  • My happiest moment is being here.

  • The passage reminds me of a quote: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way”.

  • I really like the part where he says you’re a child of the universe; you have a right to be here, like a tree, or a flower- that was reassuring. A lot of times we would go into some secluded woods- some national forest and I would get this feeling that the trees deserved to be there but somehow I was out of place. I was trying to think why that feeling arose in me and I think maybe coming from a populous country like India where there is a one-child norm- I’m the second child. And I always wondered why my parents had me. So this is good- to know I have a right to be here. And the other thing that came to me after reading this passage was that- I think if I could feel and believe and act like the universe was unfolding the way it should maybe then it becomes true not just for us- but for others around us.

  • There is a story about a generous man who would always cast his eyes down when placing food in another person’s hand. People used to wonder why he acted so ashamed of his generosity. And one day Tulsidas asks him why and he answered that it was because it wasn’t he that was giving but the Lord giving through him. “I look down because I am grateful to be a means of giving”. This passage reminded me of treating everyone like that- because you don’t know who is coming to you as the Lord.

  • The very first line really struck me. It brought to mind a performance I was at recently. It started at 7pm after work, in this big room where people were gathered; it was bustling with energy, so much so that when the performers came in no one noticed. There were three of them and they entered from different angles, with a quiet kind of stillness and made their way across the room- and by the time they had reached the stage the room was quiet. Through silence, their gestures and art they’d somehow imposed placidity on this whole group of people and it made me think of what kind of impact we can have on other people through how we present ourselves.

  • I think we have limited vision- do we really know what is bad and good for us? It’s best not to label. As for beauty unfolding I think we should see that beauty in every individual we encounter and in all different events in our life, we should feel it even with our enemies- and that would maybe be a confirmation that we are in a truly balanced state of mind.

  • Happiness is being in the moment with no past or future.



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