Every year, around this time, I get the overwhelming urge to watch one of my absolute favorite movies, "The Dead Poets Society". I watched this movie for the first time when I was much younger.
For some reason, I was constantly watching movies that were a bit mature for my age. The movie itself was not overly inappropriate, but the content was intensely intellectual and contained so much depth.
I am genuinely surprised I became so enthralled in a story about a group of prep school boys whose idea of rebelling was to resurrect a forgotten club, sneak out past curfew, meet in a dingy cave and read poetry aloud. Granted that is not exactly what the movie is about, but for a child my age to fully grasp the issues this movie brought to light and become so emotionally invested in the characters is slightly unorthodox.
I don’t exactly know why I feel the need to watch this movie during the wintry seasons, but each time I watch it I think I learn something new. A different inspirational quote might become more relevant to me than the last time I watched "Dead Poets", or I may be in one of my slumps and need some serious Robin Williams motivation to pull me out of it.
Whatever the reason I seriously love this movie and if you haven’t seen it, please go get some junk food, put on your biggest sweatpants, make the comfiest nest of pillows and blankets and prepare yourself for an emotional movie night. I promise you’ll get at least one good thing out of "Dead Poets".
So, I could go on for far too long about this movie, but I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone. I wanted to talk about a specific quote from the movie that always sticks with me. I’m sure some people are familiar with at least part of the words Professor Keating spoke, but mostly because the monologue was used in an Apple commercial fairly recently.
To pass the time at work I was lazily searching the mecca of DIY ideas, baking tips, recipes, fashion and inspirational quotes on Pinterest.
Then, I found some Robin Williams quotes from his various characters and realized "Dead Poets" was packed with inspiration and emotional content. Immediately the words replayed in my head, “…the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…” which really reminded me of everything I hoped to achieve as a child and eventually an adult.
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life! Of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’
Answer: That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?
-Robin Williams as Professor John Keating
"The Dead Poets Society" (1989)
When I was younger I had a wild imagination, as most children do, but I continued to keep that trait throughout my life.
My mind is always wandering, constantly wavering between reality and daydreams. I come up with stories in my head and usually see beyond the seemingly ordinary people, places and things that I come across.
I loved reading (and still do) and wanted to be a writer when I was younger. I had a teacher who really helped me embrace that desire in 5th grade, then one other teacher in 11th grade who really inspired me to look beyond the words on the pages of the famous authors and poets we were required to read.
Words have meaning.
I know it seems that words are just words, and they cannot possibly hold power, emotions and inspiration, but without the literary icons throughout history we wouldn’t be able to find the words to really express what we are thinking and feeling.
Our thoughts, our opinions and our feelings are so much more important than so many of us even realize.
Keating points out that the most technical professions are obviously essential to keep this world balanced, but our artists, musicians, writers and creative thinkers are the ones responsible for making us passionate about life.
Poets were able to describe “love” in such a way that the painters could express it onto their canvas.
Authors can make us become so connected to a story that we feel the despair and the pain that their characters go through, and with the imagination of directors and producers, we can also actually see our favorite stories come to life on the big screen or as a stage production.
In a single monologue "Dead Poets" made me understand what holds life together. The truly meaningful experiences we have and the extraordinary people we meet over the course of our lives are the biggest influences to inspire our paths (or our “song”).
Our lives are meaningful and whether we know it or not, we are contributing to the lives of others.
We are inspiring other people to reach their goals.
We are using our words to motivate others one way or another.
Life is a wild, unique, terrifying, chaotic, exciting, beautiful song. Life is one endless symphony and each one of us will “contribute a verse”.
Music is still made whether the notes are upbeat, sad, angry and ominous, etc. Our lives have meaning despite what we may or may not go through.
When I think about the last line in Keating’s monologue, “what will your verse be?” I think about what kind of life I want to live and what kind of impact I want to make.
Maybe I won’t figure that out right away, but I know that even if I don’t become some famous writer or release a creative work of art that I want to be a positive part of at least one person’s life.
Think about what kind of impact you want to make on someone, or the world as a whole.
What part of the “play” do you want to contribute to?
So, what will your verse be?