A chat group which was formed to organize a Chinese New Year (CNY) gathering among my ex-colleagues was somehow transformed into a Book and Poetry Chat Group after that meeting, as the wisdom and bond which was reinforced outside the workplace, felt too precious for the group to be disbanded.
Our group shares a common theme – to live a mindful, compassionate life. We hope these mutual sharings will encourage and comfort each other in our time of stress and pain. We trade jokes, greetings, books and poems mostly from dead poets. Dev thus named us the Dead Poet Society (DPS). Denise responded to that with ‘Oh Captain. My Captain’ which threw me off as I couldn’t recall the quote.(from poem of the same title by Walt Whitman)
She reminded us by sharing this:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick. 1591–1674
She ended with this message for us – ‘Carpe Diem everybody!’
And so, I decided I must watch the movie again.
I first saw this movie when it was out in the theatre in 1989, a year after I graduated from university. Watching it now, as a mother of three boys currently at the same age I was in 1989, is poignant. Indeed, how often have I reminded my sons in the exact words from Neil Perry’s father just prior to Neil’s suicide, that ‘We’re trying very hard to understand why you are defying us. You have opportunities that I didn’t have.’ (He wants Neil to give up acting to focus on medicine.)
Mr Keatings is the English teacher who inspires his students to seize the day (above poem) and not conform to what’s expected of them.
The Road not Taken by Robert Frost
He teaches them to see a different perspective by looking at another side of their classroom while standing on his desk. He is their O Captain, My Captain. However, Keatings is made the scapegoat for Neil’s death, for encouraging the students to be reckless and self-indulgence and is forced to leave the school after the boys signed an investigation report against him.
As a young man who knows the truth about Neil’s suicide, the internal conflict and struggle to either save Keating or to save yourself (from expulsion) can be painful. The boys chose the easy route out. However, when it is time for Keatings to leave, they show their remorse by standing on their desk and calling out, O Captain, My Captain!
This movie reminds me of a lesson I read from George Saunders’s essay about his creative writing class teacher, Tobias Wolff. (My Writing Education, A Time Line http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/my-writing-education-a-timeline)
He says: Good teaching is grounded in generosity of spirit. This article about inspiring teachers likewise touched me to tears.
Identify the good teachers in your life and appreciate how they have transformed you to be the better YOU we see now.