You Are a Child of the Universe, True or False?

You Are a Child of the Universe, True or False? -A "Desiderata Quiz.
Greg Rakozy/Unsplash

A “Desiderata” Quiz.

By Dewey Turner

DESIDERATA (Quiz to Follow)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

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.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

True or False?

  1. Lorne Greene from Bonanza once recited “Desiderata” on The Johnny Cash Show. He was wearing a leisure suit.
  2. National Lampoon did a musical parody of “Desiderata” called “Deteriorata.” It was written by the guy who plays the manager in This Is Spinal Tap and includes the line, “You are a fluke of the universe.” Christopher Guest wrote the music. 
  3. Joan Crawford once recited “Desiderata” on The David Frost Show. Then she bit the head off a live chicken. David Frost was smoking a cigarette the whole time.
  4. A musical version of “Desiderata” won a Grammy. It made it to #8 on the Billboard charts.
  5. “Desiderata” was discovered in Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore in 1692. 
  6. One of the last lines of “Desiderata” was accidentally changed on a mimeographed copy from “Be cheerful” to “Be careful.” It was believed to be the definitive version and took years before it was corrected.
  7. A friend found a copy of “Desiderata” next to Adlai Stevenson’s bed when he died. He was planning to include it with his Christmas cards that year.
  8. Leonard Nimoy once recorded a spoken-word version of “Desiderata.” He called it “Spock Thoughts.”
  9. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow has the entire “Desiderata” tattooed on his back in Pirates of the Caribbean.
  10. The guy who recorded the Grammy-award-winning musical version of “Desiderata” once confessed, 15 years after making the record, “I can’t listen to it now without gagging.” He said he preferred National Lampoon’s parody.  

Answers: 1. True and True. 2. True, True, True, and True. 3. True, False, and True. 4. True and True. 5. False, but a lot of people believed it for a long time, thanks to Joan Crawford and others who said it. “Desiderata” was actually written in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1927 by a guy named Max Ehrmann (read Daniel Nester’s story, link below, for more on Max). 6. True and True. 7. True and True. 8. True and True. 9. True. 10. True and True. 

Want to know more? Check out Daniel Nester’s “In Search of Desiderata: The tangled story behind a most popular poem” on the Poetry Foundation website. 

You can also listen to the 1971 Grammy-Award winning version HERE if you’d like. (Not going to link to Leonard Nimoy, Lorne Greene, or Joan Crawford. You’ll have to look those up yourself.)

And for all you cynics out there, here’s the National Lampoon parody, Deteriorata.”


 “Max Ehrmann at the Crossroads.” Sculpture by Bill Wolfe. At the corner of Wabash Avenue and 7th Street in Terre Haute, Indiana–known as the Crossroads of America.


Dewey Turner spent much of his childhood in Polk County, Florida, and has been trying to leave ever since. But like James Joyce, self-exiled from Dublin, he keeps returning in one way or another. He reports–with some consternation but no real surprise–that a great number of the kids he knew when he was a boy grew up to become Florida Man.