It was written in the early 20th century by a lawyer named Max Ehrmann (1872-1945). When I was in high school, my 10th grade psychology teacher, Mr. Freeman, gave copies of the poem to all of the students in his class with a note that read, "Read this carefully and know that I dedicate each word to all of you with my very best wishes for a healthy, happy and fulfilled life."
(Ten months before the children were born and two days before the LASIK procedure that rid me of my coke bottle glasses).
Twenty six years later, I still have the copy of Desiderata that Mr. Freeman gave to me. And whenever I need a pick me up or a gentle reminder, I turn to this simple yet incredibly powerful message. Here it is, again...
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 to 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 people 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 to 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 now, 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 of its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.What I love about this is that each and every sentence is so perfectly concise and so purely true. But for a while now, I've been hung up on the 13th sentence: Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
When I look in the mirror these days, I can very clearly see the counsel of the years. It is appearing as wrinkles around my eyes, mouth and hands ... an extra bit of skin on my chin ... some padding around my waist ... and white in my hair. I wrote about this topic a few years ago and if I recall correctly, more than 500 people voted on the poll and the results were nearly split for those who colored their hair and those who did not.
(His white speckled goatee is another matter.)
Eventually, I decided that I'd just color it myself. It took me less time and cost me less money. But that didn't go so well because the color on the box was never the color that wound up on my head. Another drawback was that my once strong and lustrous hair became dull and brittle. Like hay.
So here I sit perched on the precipice of violating some significant terms of Desiderata. I'm comparing myself to others, while contemplating how I can squeeze in a trip to a colorist and a plastic surgeon during my weekly lunch hours. But then I pull out Max Ehrmann's words and I slowly re-read each sentence of what has become my life's credo and the poor body image thoughts fly away like the white wisps on my head...
Footnote: I reserve the right to crack like wheat on this whole aging process and bleach my hair blonde. The boob job and tummy tuck, however, are highly unlikely.