Saturday, July 28, 2007

Carpe Diem - Thoughts on Dead Poets Society

I recently watched Dead Poets Society for the first time. I loved this movie, and it touches on some of the issues I've recently thought or blogged about, including manhood, our education system and stepping out, and it made me think about a poem my friend Eric recently posted.

I think our education system has a tendency toward lecturing and regurgitating, without enough dialogue and learning to think on our own. Often teachers teach what the curriculum says and expect students to respond with what the textbook says. There are exceptions, but the norm is conformity. And so often we as a people have a tendency to conform, to trivially accept what we hear and do what everyone else is doing.

The teacher, Keating, challenges his students to be free thinkers and non-conformists. His first lesson is "carpe diem" (sieze the day), and talks about how most of their predecessors believed they were "destined for great things" (sound familiar?) but they waited too long. Keating also quoted Thoreau, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," then stated, "Don't be resigned to that. Break out!"

I want to break out! ...not lead a life of quiet desperation.

But, life is a balance. On the one hand, so many people do what they're "supposed to" or what everyone else does or what they need to survive but never live out their dreams. Some may have let their dreams die or lost hope in them, but we need dreams. Dream big, trust God and take steps toward that dream (baby steps are often the best way to start).

On the other hand, there is so much sin because people let their desires control them. I do not want to live my life always waiting and never experiencing my dreams. But I also want to follow, obey and trust God. I believe He wants us to be truly alive to the desires He's placed inside us (sometimes that means waiting and sometimes stepping out), yet not to succomb to sin. And often living our dreams means sacrifice and hard work.

We can't just do what we want and disobey God, parents, the law or our bank accounts and not expect consequences. Neil's situation in the movie was very difficult, but he could have avoided tragedy by waiting rather than overtly disobeying his father. And sin and tragedy happen so often due to a lack of wisdom. But, too often I feel like I and others are leading lives of "quiet desperation." Waiting, waiting, waiting and missing opportunities. There have been moments, but I want more. I do not want to live a life of complacency. I want to be passionate for God and life, to step out, do great things, and live my dreams.

I love my friend, Eric's recent poem, Dare Me to Move. There are a couple parts which I really love:

Awaken my dreams
Oh, Lover of souls
Let love haunt in the night
Let passion set sail
And purpose steer true
If failure it be,
Then failing I'll try.

Let me not idly stand by;

Let me not idly stand by.

PS I could go on with how these thoughts relate to needing to trust in God, finding our fulfillment in His presence and the patient faith of Abraham, but I'll save that for another blog.


  1. I'm honored, Mike. I'm glad the poem spoke to you. I love Dead Poets Society and would like to watch it again. It is very true that most men "lead lives of quiet desperation." I don't want that either, not by any means. Part of my struggle to "break out" has been to realize that it's okay to fail. I've lived for a long time with a fear of failure that has paralyzed me from stepping out and pursuing the dreams God has placed in my heart. I don't want that anymore. I appreciate your candid thoughts here. You are a very good writer, and I love how you analyze popular culture in light of your own experience and extract important nuggets of truth. Blessings, bro.

  2. 'The teacher challenges his students to be free thinkers and non-conformists.'
    Did he really? Rip out the pages, go on. And they all rip out the pages. They were all like lap dogs at the master's feet. Why? Because he had Literature to teach them. I studied Literature at University, and believe me when I say that we were all in love with at least one passionate English Literature lecturer. Actually, the guy who lectured on Poetry, and had a couple of poetry books published, won the most hearts and minds of both male and female students.
    Yes, I too was fired with what I now consider, and know, to be the 'wrong' interpretation of 'carpe diem', but which best suited the more Machiavellian lecturers' interpretation.
    My young teenage daughter was watching this film only the other day, and I was so happy to note how different her response was, compared to mine when I was her age seeing the film for the first time. My beautiful daughter thought Neil's teacher, Mr Keating, was an irresponsible egoistic performer who did not know, or really care about his pupils. I was amazed, astounded, and I ran to hug and kiss her. She wants to be a doctor, or an environmental engineer, and I am so very very thankful she does not want to be an artist!

  3. excuse me,
    but who knew what blew in with the weaves,
    i could have said leaves now im changing my dream,
    anyone else believe what i think?
    or should i say what i know?
    its just a head in the end, in a little bit of snow.
    can someone please help me out and contact me. if you care about anything, this is it.
    what would it take you to e-mail me on the following address. really think about it. is it possible for me to do it so that you do exactly that? i can't think, except for this fact.

    PLEASE. im not going to cry my soul.

    every believe in THE POET?
    not kidding around.
    lifting sound off the ground
    like a moth to a flame
    crying in vain or dying for my name?
    excuse me, but i can't refrain,
    i demand a change,
    am i more sensitive or sticking my hand up cause the rest are lame?
    to my chest i stick a gun and aim,
    not at my heart, not at my soul,
    not to fart around and start a fire with coal.
    but because love surrounds to whole globe.