Ode on Solitude by Alexander Pope
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.
Blest, who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixt; sweet recreation:
And innocence, which most does please
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,
Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last 41 years (yes, I miscalculated yesterday…a sure sign of my advancing age), it is that you needn’t worry overmuch about what people think you should be. You are who you are and trying to be who you think you should be or who others think you should be is a fool’s errand.
I make this point following Mr. Pope’s lovely poem because you will never find peace if you are consumed with trying to make yourself something that you are not. Moreover, I make this point because the only way to know deep, lasting peace is by truly being yourself.
Being yourself doesn’t imply simply marching to your own tune or being contrary for the sake of creating a contrast between yourself and others. Being yourself requires that you stop hiding from yourself.
I’ve known a great many people who have kept their majestic inner spirit imprisoned in heaven because they were afraid of how it would be received on earth. Whether they fear the pressure of success and acceptance or the stress of failure and rejection is irrelevant, for both are delaying tactics designed to forestall the revelation of who they really are.
This is a terrible waste, for the very qualities of uniqueness that they try so desperately to push behind the curtain with one hand (while typically pushing other less important differences into the spotlight with the other) are the reality of them, the truth of who they are.
If you are concerned to not just rest in peace but to live in peace you must stop the charade. Who do you think you’re fooling anyway? People tend to see right through each other for this very reason. If you are being who you are, others won’t be able to see through you because you will be the most solid person they’ve likely ever met.
You cannot fake peace. You either are at peace or you are not. When you are, you don’t need to make a big stink about it, neither will you feel the need to be noticed or remembered.
Be yourself and be at peace. What do you have to lose?
8 thoughts on “Live in Peace”
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I think that many people mistake wanting to be who they are for wanting to be who they think they should be. We live in a world of surface observations, where time for introspection and meditation is far down the line of priority. The result of this is that people don’t ever really get to know themselves and they are on a mission to become what they have been told consciously and subconsciously what they should be.
Here is the protocol: Live life radiantly, give of yourself, and your true self will begin to appear. Then be introspective and strategic enough to emphasize the qualities that you learn about yourself. Then remain open and humble enough to realize that with improved wisdom, you might learn enough about yourself that the qualities you emphasize change.
It’s not what you have to lose so much as what you have to gain – perhaps years of truly peaceful and generative living!
Splendid poem. I could imagine a pastoral scene as the seasons change and the years drift by. Finding peace for me has required meditation on appreciation and forgiveness in addition to learning how to release my death grip on judgement. Then voila … peace appeared. The trick is being steadfast in these dispositions. Peace has always been available to mankind.
Living in peace doesn’t guarantee we won’t have stressful stretches in life. Living in peace does guarantee we’ll be better equipped to traverse them. It’s been said that war is hell so why have one in our own hearts and thoughts. I appreciate the message in this post, thank you.
Thank you for such a wonderful post!
There sure is that strange dichotomy of wanting so desperately to fit in a world you don’t somehow really agree with. It is an external pressure to conform and I feel something is always lost if that pressure takes over any element of joy, excitement or wonder that is a natural part of the exploration and discovery of the world you live in. When you are imposed upon through arbitrary authoritarian norms, your sense of self is challenged and it takes some guts to still be yourself in your natural wonderful state. I think that’s why most people feel the best years of their life are when they are younger chronologically, and I think they feel that not because of aging, but because they lost something so precious they had once. There is a vitality and vigor afforded to the young but I wonder how much of that gets dissipated through unnatural stress, through carrying the unreconciled tensions of a complicated life?
Such peace, the heart’s utmost content, is found in a simple life untethered by distraction. I too resound in the solitude described by our poet, for you get a chance to know yourself when you are still, and all of us are quite magnificent in our center.
That is a lovely poem!