I realize I’m dating myself by referring to Paul Harvey and his radio program, “The Rest of the Story.” But it is nearly Easter, a time to reflect on life and its meaning as well as to search for Easter eggs and buy special clothing. It is time to re-read “Desiderata,” Latin translation of the title: “Desired Things.”
The poem has an interesting “Rest of the Story” story that includes a mistaken publication date, a lawsuit and its performance by such notables as Joan Crawford, Leonard Nemoy, Les Crane and Morgan Freeman. Below is a brief summary of the Wikepedia history of the piece. Visit Wikepedia for the complete article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderata
Max Ehrmann, a poet as well as a Harvard educated lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, wrote the poem in 1927. In 1956, the rector at St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, Maryland created some devotional materials for his congregation and included the date of the church’s founding, 1692. Somehow the founding date of the church and the creation date of the poem became one and the same. There is still confusion about the date to this day.
For me, “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, symbolizes the essence of religion no matter the denomination with the poem’s gentle admonition to be kind to each other and to oneself. If we followed the Golden Rule and the guidance of the “Desiderata,” we wouldn’t need lawyers, court rooms, psychologists or arms manufacturers. And perhaps the fanatical leaders the world over would re-examine their supposed mandate to convert everyone to their own bitter way of thinking.
Here is the poem. Happy Easter.
DESIDERATA By Max Ehrmann
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.
Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata” 1927.