When I started out on my first actual salaried full time job I was broke. But I loved my job. I was in South Africa. I worked with a variety of impressive people and I drove shiny new BMWs and I was in my very early 20’s. Being broke didn’t matter – I was in heaven. Then my mother phoned from Bulawayo. My Dad had been rushed to hospital with another heart attack. My mother said not to worry – she thought he would be ok, he had survived the first heart attack after all and she was a State Registered Nurse and she knew what she was talking about. She just wanted to let me know but no need to worry.
I didn’t believe her. I called the heart doctor on his home phone who was a kind old man and a friend of my Dad’s and lived around the block from us and had nice cars. He sounded very serious. I asked him if my Mum was lying. He said that if he was me, he would come home. I hung up.
I didn’t have the fare to fly home, my company wouldn’t let me take one of their cars into a foreign country and I didn’t own a car and I probably didn’t have the petrol money to drive one home. I was only a month or two into my job – they would give me time off – but no loan. I went to a businessman that I dealt with through work, a guy called Ali who was a car dealer and as sharp as you could get, according to my boss. We had always got on because I had refused his bribes and could handle his chillies – he said I was the first white guy he knew who could do both. We chatted a lot together and ate chillies and drank tea without milk. He was my only hope. He had safes full of cash. Literally. He would be easily able to lend me the money and he liked me. Problem sorted. I went to visit him.
“But Peter, I am a Muslim. I can’t lend you money. It’s against my religion” he said gently when I explained my problem. He offered me another chilli and smiled: “I could buy something of yours though for cash. If you had something I needed. Of course if you wanted it back I could sell it back to you for the same price when you get back after seeing your Dad.” I mentally took stock of what I owned. It didn’t take long. I had a tennis racket signed by Mats Wilander and an old television and some cruddy furniture. He perked up at the sound of the television – “I have to buy a television this week” he said, “for my daughter”. Strange, I thought – but lucky. I fetched the TV, dubious that he would pay the money I needed for the plane fare. Weirdly he thought it was worth exactly the amount of the airfare. He waved away my teary thanks laughing. “No bother to say thank you – this is a business exchange. Go look after your father, come and buy your TV back when everything is sorted at home.” What a man.
Now I had the airfare – but couldn’t get to the airport. I kept begging. My boss, a man called Charles Pratt who wasn’t one, organised me a lift to the place I had organised to stay the night near the airport. It was in the impressive home of the mother of one of the kids I had coached. She was in her 30’s and married to a successful man who was bringing up her two children whose father had died racing motorbikes. I was desperately in love with her. Had been for years. Massively, uselessly, clumsily in love with her. She was gorgeous. But that night she was very kind. She spoke to me about my father and let me speak about him. Then she spoke about the way I had worked with her kids. She said I reminded her of Robin Williams facially but also from his role in The Dead Poets’ Society. I have tears in my eyes now thinking of her kindness and generosity with her time and those words. Her words lifted me then and have done ever since. Because who else as a teacher or a coach would you aspire to be more than “Captain, My Captain.” Who else?
I grew up giggling at Mork and Mindy. Dead Poets stopped me, shocked me, slapped me in the face and lifted me up. It changed my life and is still a film I have to “be in the right place” to watch. Mrs Doubtfire I rented from the video store and showed my parents in South Africa – they didn’t get it totally but my Mum liked the humour. Robin William’s shouting “Good Morning Vietnam” represents how I feel on those triumphant, defiant days. Good Will Hunting … well what can you say about that film on any day let alone a day like this?
Robin Williams. President Obama got it right when he said people found their voice and their verse from you. Like so many others I got heart and humanity and soul from you too. I salute you and thank you from the bottom of my heart. Captain, My Captain.
Take a few minutes to see and hear the ripping of Mr Pritchard and to remember why words and language are so important!
I have added some of the coolest quotes from Dead Poets’ Society! Worth reading. Some are worth living.
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?
No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
Neil: [quoting Henry David Thoreau] “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
Dalton: I’ll second that.
Neil: “To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”
John Keating: There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.
John Keating: 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.
John Keating: O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain.
Todd Anderson: [standing on his desk] Oh captain, my captain.
[Keating stands on his desk]
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
[Dings a bell with his foot]
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.
John Keating: Boys, 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. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!
John Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is – Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba?
John Keating: Mr. Perry?
Neil: To communicate.
John Keating: No! To woo women!
John Keating: Close your eyes, close your eyes! Close ’em! Now, describe what you see.
Todd Anderson: Uh, I-I close my eyes.
John Keating: Yes.
Todd Anderson: Uh, and this image floats beside me.
John Keating: A sweaty-toothed madman.
Todd Anderson: A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.
John Keating: Oh, that’s *excellent*! Now, give him action – make him do something!
Todd Anderson: H-His hands reach out and choke me.
John Keating: That’s it! Wonderful, wonderful!
Todd Anderson: And all the time he’s mumbling.
John Keating: What’s he mumbling?
Todd Anderson: Mumbling truth.
John Keating: Yeah, yes.
Todd Anderson: Truth like-like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.
John Keating: [some of the class start to laugh] Forget them, forget them! Stay with the blanket. Tell me about that blanket!
Todd Anderson: Y-Y-You push it, stretch it, it’ll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it’ll never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying t-to the moment we leave dying, it’ll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.
[long pause then class applauds]
John Keating: Don’t you forget this.
John Keating: Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go,
[imitating a goat]
John Keating: “that’s baaaaad.” Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
John Keating: I SOUND MY BARBARIC YAWP OVER THE ROOFTOPS OF THE WORLD.
5 of 5 found this interesting | Share this
John Keating: [the class hesitates to rip out the introduction page] It’s not the Bible, you’re not gonna go to Hell for this.
5 of 5 found this interesting | Share this
Dalton: [answering phone] Welton Academy, hello. Yes he is, just a moment. Mr. Nolan, it’s for you. It’s God. He says we should have girls at Welton.
Neil: [Neil finds Todd sitting alone on the roof] Hey!
Todd Anderson: Hey.
Neil: What’s going on?
Todd Anderson: Nothin’. Today’s my birthday.
Neil: Is today your birthday? Happy birthday!
Todd Anderson: Thanks.
Neil: What’d you get?
Todd Anderson: [indicating the desk set lying beside him] My parents gave me this.
Neil: Isn’t this the same desk set…
Todd Anderson: Yeah. Yeah, they gave me the same thing as last year.
Todd Anderson: Oh.
Neil: Maybe they thought you needed another one.
Todd Anderson: Maybe they weren’t thinking about anything at all. The funny thing is about this is, I-I didn’t even like it the first time.
Neil: Todd, I think you’re underestimating the value of this desk set.
[He picks it up]
Neil: I mean, who would want a football or a baseball or…
Todd Anderson: Or a car.
Neil: Or a car, if they could have a desk set as wonderful as this one? I mean, if-if I were ever going to buy a desk set, twice, I would probably buy this one. Both times! In fact, its shape is… it’s rather aerodynamic, isn’t it?
[walks to the edge of the roof]
Neil: You can feel it. This desk set wants to fly!
[hands it to Todd]
Neil: Todd? The world’s first unmanned flying desk set.
[Todd throws it off the roof – papers fly everywhere and things crash and clatter to the ground]
Neil: Oh my! Well, I wouldn’t worry. You’ll get another one next year.
John Keating: Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring!
Neil: So what are you going to do? Charlie?
Dalton: Damn it Neil, the name is Nuwanda.
John Keating: This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.
Dalton: I’m exercising the right not to walk.
John Keating: Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone.
Neil: For the first time in my whole life, I know what I wanna do! And for the first time, I’m gonna do it! Whether my father wants me to or not! Carpe diem!
John Keating: We’re not laughing at you – we’re laughing near you.
John Keating: Thank you, boys. Thank you.
Neil Perry: I just talked to my father. He’s making me quit the play at Henley Hall. Acting’s everything to me. I- But he doesn’t know! He- I can see his point; we’re not a rich family, like Charlie’s. We- But he’s planning the rest of my life for me, and I- He’s never asked me what I want!
John Keating: Have you ever told your father what you just told me? About your passion for acting? You ever showed him that?
Neil Perry: I can’t.
John Keating: Why not?
Neil Perry: I can’t talk to him this way.
John Keating: Then you’re acting for him, too. You’re playing the part of the dutiful son. Now, I know this sounds impossible, but you have to talk to him. You have to show him who you are, what your heart is!
Neil Perry: I know what he’ll say! He’ll tell me that acting’s a whim and I should forget it. They’re counting on me; he’ll just tell me to put it out of my mind for my own good.
John Keating: You are not an indentured servant! It’s not a whim for you, you prove it to him by your conviction and your passion! You show that to him, and if he still doesn’t believe you – well, by then, you’ll be out of school and can do anything you want.
Neil Perry: No. What about the play? The show’s tomorrow night!
John Keating: Then you have to talk to him before tomorrow night.
Neil Perry: Isn’t there an easier way?
John Keating: No.
Neil Perry: [laughs] I’m trapped!
John Keating: No you’re not.
[the students are climbing onto Keating’s desk to see a new perspective]
John Keating: Now, don’t just walk off the edge like lemmings! Look around you!
Dalton: Gentlemen, what are the Four Pillars?
Dalton, Meeks, Neil, Knox, Todd Anderson: Travesty. Horror. Decadence. Excrement.
Pitts: Too bad.
Knox: It’s worse than “Too bad,” Pittsie. It’s a tragedy. A girl this beautiful in love with such a jerk.
Pitts: All the good ones go for jerks. You know that.
John Keating: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.
Nolan: At these boys’ age? Not on your life!
Meeks: I’ll try anything once.
Dalton: Except sex.
Nolan: Free thinkers at 17?
John Keating: Excrement! That’s what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard! We’re not laying pipe! We’re talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? “I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can’t dance to it!”
John Keating: Mr. Meeks, time to inherit the earth.
Todd Anderson: Keating said that everybody took turns reading and I don’t wanna do that.
Neil: Gosh, you really have a problem with that don’t you?
Todd Anderson: N-No, I don’t have a problem, Neil. I just – I don’t wanna do it, okay!
Neil Perry: But, that’s ten more years! Father, that’s a *lifetime*!
Mr. Perry: Oh, stop it! Don’t be so dramatic! You make it sound like a prison term! You don’t understand, Neil! You have opportunities that I never even dreamt of, and I am not going to let you waste them!
Neil Perry: I’ve got to tell you what I feel!
Neil: I was good. I was really good.