Desired Things

 

Desiderata

 

Go placidly amid the noise and the 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 to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or 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 in your soul.

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

 

I was reminded of this 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann recently and found these simple and eloquent lines resonated with me now as they did then. Desiderata comes from Latin, meaning “desired things” (plural of desideratum, the supine of desidero). When I am impatient, unsure, afraid, or wallowing in what seems an eternal state of ennui, as I am right now, during these restless and uncertain days, I take the following thought and stitch it into the hem of my life:

And whether or not it is clear to you,
… the universe is unfolding as it should.

 

Image: Photo, Ernst Haas

 

 

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~ by eaesthete on 03/07/12.

4 Responses to “Desired Things”

  1. Desiderata,
    A dear friend gave me this text, now just over 30 years ago, our lives evolved in ways we at that time could not imagine, I stored the text and when we moved to France, I framed and hung Desiderata in my workshop. I read and muse about the text, in its simplicity it says it all. I haven’t seen my dear friend since, I wish him all the best.
    under the text it says ” Found in Old St Paul’s Church Baltimore dated 1692″
    Best Wishes
    Fred

    • under the text it says ” Found in Old St Paul’s Church Baltimore dated 1692″

      There is an entire myth that has prevailed over the years regarding the origins of this poem.

      The common myth is that the Desiderata poem was found in a Baltimore church in 1692 and is centuries old, of unknown origin. Desiderata was in fact written around 1920 (although some say as early as 1906), and certainly copyrighted in 1927, by lawyer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) based in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Desiderata myth began after Reverend Frederick Kates reproduced the Desiderata poem in a collection of inspirational works for his congregation in 1959 on church notepaper, headed: ‘The Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore, AD 1692′ (the year the church was founded). Copies of the Desiderata page were circulated among friends, and the myth grew, accelerated particularly when a copy of the erroneously attributed Desiderata was found at the bedside of deceased Democratic politician Aidlai Stevenson in 1965.

  2. I sincerely hope that one day we shall meet, EA. This was a lovely reminder for me as well; I remembering studying it in my 7th grade English class and being struck by simple beauty of the title. Most of us already know all of this to be true, but we must continue to remind ourselves how real these truths are. We need to live them and not just look on them as platitudes that we immediately forget.

    Best,
    John

    • John,

      You’re exactly right. I seem to remember my version of this on a poster that was being sold in every little curio shop and tourist trap the world over, eventually relegating it to the trash bin of history as something mawkish and hackneyed. Thank you for seeing as I have.

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