"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
This line from Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society (written by Tom Schulman) has resonated with me since I first saw it at the impressionable age of thirteen. And, oh, what an impression it's made! Prior to seeing it I can recall a few youthful attempts to express myself via writing. Yet, it wasn't until I was exposed to Mr. Keating's (Robin Williams) class that I really began to take the art of writing seriously.
In retrospect, I might have taken it too seriously, because for years I've struggled with limitations based solely on my own perceptions and criticisms of my work. A mindset which has, until now, prevented me from sharing much of anything with the world. While this film made me want to write with the intent to change things, I was paralyzed by fear that nothing I wrote would ever be good enough.
It's not lost on me how much this outlook resembles that of character Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) in the film. Whether or not DPS influenced me so deeply that it made this my reality, I cannot say. What I can say is that my favorite moment in the film (it's everyone's favorite, right?) occurs when Mr. Keating masterfully helps Todd to overcome his fear that "everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing." How does he do this? By forcing him to stand in front of the class (the world) and create something out of nothing.
Another thing not lost on me is that I've chosen to write this today: August 11, 2016. A date that marks the second anniversary of the devastating loss of Robin Williams. His performance, of course, is what most inspired me. Mr. Keating is the teacher I always wanted. The teacher the world always wanted. His message taught me to be myself, to never stop questioning, and to fight for my dreams. Lessons I can only hope to impart to my own children someday with the same passion he conveyed to his students. Ultimately, he's the reason I'm writing this now. His words have inspired me to share my experience of creating something out of nothing.
When I decided to create this blog I was faced with the daunting task of giving it a title. Fans of the film will recognize the title I've chosen from one of the pivotal scenes, when Mr. Keating shares this quote from Walt Whitman with his class:
"O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd 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."
The poem alone is a stunning example of the lasting power of a writer's words. Yet Mr. Keating follows it up with a challenge of his own for his students:
"What will your verse be?"
So, this begins my verse. A place where I hope to discover so much more about life and myself through writing and sharing without fear. Writing this piece in particular brought tears to my eyes, because it's helped me reach a deeper understanding of how profoundly Dead Poets Society has affected my life. It truly has changed my world.
Thank you, Mr. Keating. I'll be standing on my desk in your honor, and from it I will continue to write these words and ideas as a testament to all that you've taught me.