I watched one of my favourite movies with my kids this weekend. Dead Poets Society. I remember seeing it for the first time as a 16-year-old high school student and it made such an impact on me.
Those lines from Walt Whitman, “Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—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.”
And then Robin Williams asks in the movie, “What will your verse be?”
What will your verse be? We may not know for years. We may know from a very young age. We may make mistakes. But mistakes don’t define us. Getting up and doing something about it will.
No matter what path we choose, we must embrace those things that make our hearts sing.
As Robin Williams’ character Mr. Keating says in the movie, “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. 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.”
What we stay alive for. What makes us feel most alive? How can we do more of that? How can we learn from guilt and banish shame as we move through the maze of life and decide when to turn right and left along the way?
No matter what happens we learn or we grow. No matter which way we go. We just have to remember that we’re the only ones who can write our verse.