Remembering John Keating

I was 15 or 16 when I came across “Dead Poets Society”. John Keating, the teacher played by Robin Williams, was prancing around the screen exhorting and challenging his precocious class of high school boys. Across the ocean, I too was stirred.

Gather ye rosebuds while you may. Carpe Diem. To suck the marrow out of life.


Before the time of Internet, there were countless times I visited the National library to request a copy of the movie so that I could rewatch it.

Again and again, I let the words sink into my uncertain little soul. There is a little part of quiet desperation in all of us, the part that wishes his/her life would not pass by in a meaningless manner. That part of me was responding to the call of the captain, seeking to find its own voice.

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, these 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, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

And then he says,

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?

What will your verse be?


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