Life Lesson #21: “Poetry, Beauty, Love — These are What We Live For”
Today’s life lesson is inspired by the character known as Nuwanda (the nickname of Charles Dalton, one of my characters from the movie “The Dead Poets’ Society), who said, “Gotta DO more, gotta BE more!”
Have You Seen It Yet?
Did you ever see the movie called “The Dead Poet’s Society (DPS)?” If you have not seen it yet, please do yourself a favor and watch it today! I first saw it with my friend Joseph Elston when I was a senior in high school in 1989 and it changed my life. I watch it now at least once a year — usually around the end of one year to get myself ready for the next one – so that I can be inspired by all the great wisdom stored within this movie. Once you see this movie, I’d wager you might want to do the same.
The main character in DPS is an English Professor named John Keating (played by Robin Williams) and he provides his students with a number of great life lessons. These lessons are powerful tips that can truly change your life if you take the time to understand them, and more importantly, to apply them to your life. Some of these quotes you may have heard before because they’ve become so popular they are now clichés, however even if you do recognize a quote, I’d encourage to not just skip over it; instead, let’s spend a moment together discussing it so that you can get the full value out of that tip and make the most of it in your life too. Your goal here should be to not just read but to remember – do that and you’ll have tips at the forefront of your mind so that you can use them whenever you need them. My friends, invest a little time with me here today, and you’ll reap the rewards later in a big way
Professor Keating’s Life Lessons
Keating Lesson #1: “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. [Henry David] Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”
Helpful Dad’s take: Don’t just be a part of the herd, shuffling along doing what everybody else is doing because that’s what you think society requires of you; instead discover who YOU are. Be who YOU want to be. Do that and you’ll find happiness. Be a follower and you’ll miss out on life until it’s too late – and you’ll be filled with regret. That’s no fun. Don’t be content to just watch others live while you sit on the sidelines – aim to be someone who enjoys life! If you have the opportunity to dance, do it; if you have the chance to soar, take it; if you have a dream to achieve, go for it. Live your best life possible – but remember, nobody can live that life but YOU.
Keating Lesson #2: “To quote from [poet Walt] 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… 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?”
Helpful Dad’s take: I love this one. It’s kind of cliché now because advertisers have gotten ahold of it, but it really is a good one. We are all part of the grand play of the universe. We all have a part to play – something to contribute – something that, even if it’s in a small way, can indeed change the world. Maybe you won’t discover the cure for cancer, but maybe you’ll do something nice for somebody else and that person will be inspired to discover the cure (but it would have never happened if you had not played your part first!). So you see, we are all connected. All of us are members of this great play. We all have a part to contribute. You DO matter and you ARE important. The world needs YOUR contribution. Never forget that.
Keating Lesson #3: “When you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks, consider what YOU think.”
Helpful Dad’s take: the author had a reason for writing what they did and it’s great to try to understand it, but the more important lesson is what will YOU do with the knowledge that you gain from reading something? Figure out how to do that on a consistent basis and you’ll be able to not just read about wisdom, you’ll be able to USE it too!
Keating Lesson #4: “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.”
Helpful Dad’s take: This one is the basis for today’s life lesson. Understand that the sweetness of life comes from things like love, and poetry, and beauty – but often you have to make some extra effort to appreciate these things. Remember the life lessons about how ‘everything is beautiful in its time,’ the importance of ‘changing your perspective,’ and why you should ‘choose happiness over money,’ well in order to really understand those lessons, we must understand what Professor Keating is teaching us here – don’t just live to work, spending all your time and energy just to make money, instead work to LIVE. King Solomon said, “Eat, drink, and be glad” (Eccl 8:15) – so enjoy your life and learn to appreciate all the beauty that the world around has to offer.
Keating Lesson #5: “But only in their dreams can man be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”
Helpful Dad’s take: this is so true, but perhaps on more levels than you might think. Sure you’re free in the dream world when you sleep at night or when you daydream, but you’re also free to turn your dreams into reality too. You can change the world with YOUR dreams… if you only try
Keating Lesson #6: Carpe, carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
Helpful Dad’s take: I’m sure you know this quote because it’s what the movie is most famous for! So what’s Professor Keating trying to teach us? It’s simple — don’t wait to live, live NOW! There is no guarantee of a tomorrow for any of us so if you want to do something, do it TODAY. Remember this little epigram by Bill Keane — “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” Be grateful that you are here. Be grateful that you are even alive. Make a promise to yourself that you won’t waste this day. Use the gift of today and make the most of your time by doing something, anything, no matter how small, that gets you closer to YOUR dreams.
Keating’s Lesson #7: “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas CAN change the world.”
Helpful Dad’s take: perhaps I’m starting to sound like a broken record because I keep saying the same things – but that’s because it’s so important. My friend, you are here for a reason. You can indeed change the world and make it a better place. Sadly not everybody is going to believe in you and many will actually try to keep you down or discourage you. Don’t let them stop you! Believe in yourself. Seek the wisdom of others who do believe in you and do want to help you. Keep striving towards your own personal victory line and when you reach it keep going! Run YOUR race until the very end and you can change the world – just be sure that you save a little time to tell me about all the great things you did!
Don’t Wait, Use This Wisdom Today
Pick one quote from this list and make the commitment to use that wisdom in your life today.
Did You Know?
Today’s lesson was adapted from a book Jax and I wrote called Diary of a Minecraft Dad