Desiderata by Max Ehrmann is a 1927 prose poem. "Desiderata" (Latin: "desired things")
12. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
At first, I presumed this instruction implied old age. That during our elderly years, we would look back and evaluate how we lived our lives. I was a long ways from that, so I tucked it away until I was there. Now that I'm there, in that phase of my life, I'm taking it out to examine my youthful presumptions.
Notice that this is not the cliché we so often hear,”Grow old gracefully.” I have no argument with that cliché. I think it's good advice. Inasmuch as we have two inevitable outcomes, graciously accepting the developmental challenge, this rite of passage, of growing older is a privilege; not a certain inevitability.
But this instruction tells us to “Take kindly the counsel of the years...” At what point do we begin doing this? At what phase in our lives do we start accepting the counsel of the years?
My understanding of this instruction is that we would enhance our happiness by coming to terms with all we've experienced. We would gain a quality of peace if we labor to put our experiences in perspective so that we are embracing our life lessons tenderly and respectfully.
This instruction also tells us to gracefully surrender the things of youth. In time, youth will surrender us. We have no control over this. We hope that there will be this smooth transition of our years letting go of the things of youth and youth will gracefully surrender them. Thereby, we become the passive on-looker rather than central dispatch.
We have the individual freedom to take kindly the counsel of the years. We have the authority to decide those things of youth we choose to surrender gracefully, and those things we choose to treasure.
This is an intensely personal and intimate engagement with ourselves. We determine when, where and how we choose to engage with the counsel of the years. We design, customize and proudly own what we have chosen to maintain from our youth to serve as a gift, our endowment to our legacy.
Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts?
Dedicated to my sons, Jibri and Chris, my privilege and blessing. EcwmB