I was in my twenties when I first stumbled upon the Desiderata. A recent college graduate, working with delinquent adolescent girls at a mental health facility in Illinois. I was impressed that this historical document, written in Old English script, had somehow been preserved as a poster to be reintroduced in the twentieth century. I was also intrigued that it didn't read like something written in the seventeenth century. It had a modern flavor to it. Nevertheless, who was I to question its origin? It was wise and deep. Thoughts to ponder and return to periodically for guidance in living.
The Desiderata history is an interesting one, as there has been confusion surrounding the author of this prose poem. It is often mistaken that it was written by an anonymous author in 1692 and was found in Old Saint Paul's Church. So the prose poem was attributed to an unknown 17th century author.
The Rev. Frederick Ward Kates was rector of the church from 1956 to 1961. During that time he used the words of Desiderata in a mimeographed booklet he gave to his parishioners to read. On the cover of the booklet was the church’s name and year it was founded: “Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore, 1692.” The two became inextricably linked and even today it is hard to tear them apart.
Many years later, I stumbled across it again while working as a counselor at Muskegon Community College and shared it with adult students. Not only did I share it, we studied it. As I recall, we didn't get very far. There's no end to the discussion and insights that this philosophical work engenders.
Now that I'm in my mature years and have gained life experience, I'm still fascinated by the instructions shared in this timeless and eternally relevant prose work.
It's a privilege to share what I've learned from pondering and applying these directives to my journey. I've divided the Desiderata into 23 sets of instructions for this purpose. It's my hope that you will find the Desiderata worthy of your contemplation.
Dedicated to my sons, Jibri and Chris, my privilege and blessing. EcwmB