Well, sometimes it is, but then I get a little annoyed – you broke into whatever I was watching to tell me that? Tonight they broke into Jeopardy, which resulted in, first, a flash of irritation (for obvious reasons), and then the thought “Oh crap, we’re at war again.”
That’s the good news – we’re not (really) (technically) at war again.
But the bad news … Ah, God, the bad news.
All I can keep saying is … it doesn’t make any sense that the world no longer has him in it. I can’t wrap my mind around it.
The movie of his that means the most to me, the one that simultaneously saved and shattered my adolescence, which told the story of what a remarkable teacher could be when I hadn’t had a teacher who gave a damn since the second grade … Dead Poets Society. I saw that movie probably more often than was healthy, and I haven’t seen it in years. I fully expect to be watching it in the very near future, and sobbing like a heart-broken child.
But I’ll stand on a desk to do it.
Not from the film in question – but I think we could all use a smile…
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” What will your verse be?
Keating: “O Captain! My Captain!” Who knows where that comes from? Anybody. Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now, this class, you can either call me Mr. Keating, or, if you’re slightly more daring, “O Captain! My Captain.” Now let me dispel a few rumors, so they don’t fester into facts. Yes, I, too, attended Hellton and have survived. And no, at that time, I was not the mental giant you see before you. I was the intellectual equivalent of a ninety-eight-pound weakling. I would go to the beach, and people would kick copies of Byron in my face. Now, Mr. … Pitts? That’s rather unfortunate name. Mr. Pitts, where are you? Mr. Pitts, will you open your hymnal to page 542? Read the first stanza of the poem you find there.
Pitts: “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”?
Keating: Yes. That’s the one. Somewhat appropriate, isn’t it?
Pitts: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flowers that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
Keating: Thank you, Mr. Pitts. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” The Latin term for that sentiment is “Carpe diem“. Now who knows what that means?
Meeks: Carpe diem. That’s “seize the day.”
Keating: Very good, Mr–
Keating: Meeks. Another unusual name. Seize the day. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” Why does the writer use these lines?
Charlie: Because he’s in a hurry.
Keating: No! Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is, one day, gonna stop breathing, turn cold, and die. I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You’ve walked past them many times, but I don’t think you’ve really looked at them. They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts, full of hormones just like you. Invincible just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see, gentlemen, those boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. Do you hear it? Carpe. Hear it? Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
Neil: Mr. Keating! Mr. Keating! Sir? (Keating keeps walking, whistling the 1812 Overture)
Charlie: Say something.
Neil: O Captain! My Captain! (Keating stops and turns)
Come my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world
for my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset.
And though we are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Charlie: To feel taller.
Keating: No! (hits bell on desk with foot) Thank you for playing, Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. You see, the world looks very different from up here. You don’t believe me? Come see for yourself. Come on. Come on! Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try! Now, when you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks. Consider what you think. Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out! Don’t just walk off the edge like lemmings. Look around you. There! There you go, Mr. Priske. Thank you! Yes! Dare to strike out and find new ground. Now, in addition to your essays, I would like you to compose a poem of your own, an original work. (the class groans; Keating flickers lights off and on a few times with an operatic “la ha ha hum!” ) That’s right! You have to deliver it aloud in front of the class on Monday. Bonne chance, gentlemen. Mr. Anderson? (Todd is just about to take his turn stepping off the desk – he stops, catching his balance as he looks up) Don’t think that I don’t know that this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole. (turns light off as he leaves, Todd still stranded, horrified, upon the desk)
Cameron: That page has been ripped out, sir.
Todd: O Captain! My Captain!
Mr. Nolan: Sit down, Mr. Anderson! Do you hear me? Sit down! Sit down! This is your final warning, Anderson. How dare you? Do you hear me?
Knox: O Captain! My Captain!
Mr. Nolan: Mr. Overstreet, I warn you! Sit down! Sit down! Sit down. All of you. I want you seated. Sit down. Leave, Mr. Keating. All of you, down. I want you seated. Do you hear me? Sit down!
Keating: Thank you, boys. Thank you.
Keating: All right, who’s up first?
Todd: I have something.
Keating: Mr. Anderson.
Knox: That thing you’ve been writing!
Todd: Yeah, that “thing”.
Keating: I’ll take my old seat.
(Meeks goes to stand beside Todd with a lamp, as he takes out a piece of paper and unfolds it)
Todd: In between the verses, all of you say “And still we sleep”.
Charlie (?): And still we what?
Todd: And still we sleep.
We’re dreaming of tomorrow, and tomorrow isn’t coming
We’re dreaming of the glory that we don’t really want
We’re dreaming of a new day when the new day’s there already
And we’re running from the battle when it’s one that must be fought.
All: And still we sleep.
Todd: We’re listening for the calling, but never really heeding
Hoping for the future when the future’s only plans
Dreaming of the wisdom that we’re dodging daily
And praying for a savior when salvation’s in our hands
All: And still we sleep.
Todd: And still we dream, and still we fear, and still we pray, and still we sleep.