No Matter What People Tell You, Words and Ideas Can Change the World.

~ John Keating {Robin Williams} (Dead Poets Society, 1989)

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If you were able to go to dinner with one famous, creative soul, living or dead, who would it be? To me, that will always be Professor Tolkien, but today the whole internet would, without missing a beat, answer, “Robin Williams, of course.” I’ve been reading article after article and liking post after post across all of my social media platforms in regards to his death. His struggle with depression as of late became too difficult, so they say. He got tired of fighting his demons, another one proclaims. I keep reading these things thinking the information will change, but it doesn’t — one of the most inspirational people of our age is gone.

“But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.” ~ John Keating {Robin Williams} (Dead Poets Society, 1989)

As I stated before, the internet is, as a whole, showing how upset the world is about the death of Robin Williams. Not only do I see posts stating the news from a neutral standpoint, but I see posts of sadness. I see also posts galore about how it’s just a celebrity. We didn’t know him. We weren’t his friends. We aren’t his family. What right do we have to post all these things about his life? To remember in ways that we would not if he weren’t so famous?

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.” ~ John Keating {Robin Williams} (Dead Poets Society, 1989)

These are all valid points, nevertheless. But this is how I see it — he was an artist. Acting is, was, and will always be another form art, regardless of modern celebrity culture. It is okay for the masses — his fans — to mourn the loss of an artist. This is as true today as it was back when all we had of artists were paintings — and when those paintings became famous, those artists were long gone to the world in many cases. Regardless of what the dissenting opinion is, so many people are mourning the loss of a great talent in the acting world — myself included. I grew up watching many of his films — anything from Aladdin, Hook, Bicentennial Man, Patch Adams, Flubber, Robots, August Rush, Night at the Museum, A.I., Man of the Year, Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire, Awakenings, Good Will Hunting  — to What Dreams May Come. And, of course, as the quotes on this post will remind you — Dead Poets Society. There are so many films that I enjoy to this day and some more urgently recommended now that I should watch, but Dead Poets Society takes the cake, I think. The film is not a comedy, though nevertheless, Robin Williams’s character, John Keating, speaks words worthy of staying. I write tonight with quotes from his character in remembrance of great talent — of an artist able to act out some screenwriter’s work to the best of his ability, and thus help bring to life a masterpiece.

“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.” ~ John Keating {Robin Williams} (Dead Poets Society, 1989)

The first time I saw this movie was in my High School creative writing class. I remember that only a few of us were engaged enough to be upset that the bell would inevitably ring half-way through the film. I don’t remember if we saw the end of it in class or not, but it captured my interest in a way that — back when renting movies at a store was a thing — I pleaded to rent that one and to see the end of the movie. I just watched it again tonight, and as per usual, I cry when [Spoiler Alert — highlight text following bracket to read] Neil Perry commits suicide due to severe depression. His answer to his father’s question, “What is it you feel?” was “nothing.” That’s the part that always gets me. The movie was always important to me — it was one defining piece of art in a series of things that showed me being my authentic, creative self was more important than anything else. At the time, I wanted to be spirited away to art school. At the time, I figured I wanted to be an art teacher. At the time, not only was I acing my English courses, but also immensely enjoying Creative Writing. At the time, I thought it was a hobby, placed behind all of the visual arts that I had been elbow deep in. Even placed behind my participation in choir.

“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.” ~ John Keating {Robin Williams} (Dead Poets Society, 1989)

Sometimes, I look back to all that. I hit a rough patch just after high school, where I did not get spirited away to college. I spent almost a whole year moping about it. Thinking just because I had missed this particular train, another one would never find this station I waited at. I would cashier at the local grocery store for the rest of my life and lose an opportunity I had only ever held on to by a thread. That was the statistic, right? Most kids who don’t go directly to college never make it there. And I kept believing that was me, too. And I stopped painting. I stopped singing in the shower. I stopped reading so much. I stopped writing. I stopped writing. Until that time, that never matter much to me. It wasn’t the game plan, even though I began writing at a stupidly young age. (That’s a post for a different day.) It was writing that brought me back out of the shadows I had cast for myself, in one way or another. And I have that class and this movie to thank for reminding me, after the fact, that my words and ideas most definitely can and will change the world. One day. Provided I just keep writing.

“I SOUND MY BARBARIC YAWP OVER THE ROOFTOPS OF THE WORLD.” ~ John Keating {Robin Williams} (Dead Poets Society, 1989)

It took a long time to recover from the setback I faced in the year before I started college. It took all four years leading up to a point in my life where I could stand proudly in front of an audience and perform my poetry, even while shaking from the fear of my words not being anything short of embarrassing. Sound familiar? Looking back at the movie, John Keating helped Todd Anderson in a similar way — to close your eyes to the words and laughter of those who would scorn you and just speak the words that are within you. And at the end, his classmates were stunned to silence at what he made up on the spot. They clapped. His words made a difference.

I am sitting here, only days away from starting my fifth and final year of undergraduate college work. I’m working as hard as I can to achieve a goal I thought I could never achieve. I aim towards graduate school and even beyond that. I am half way through my novel and have more brewing in my brain. I write poetry in a tiny notebook on the bus ride to campus and in between classes. I aim to be a professor, one day, even if it is not an immediately achievable goal. Even in the dim state of this economy and the terrible odds stacked against such a career these days — that will be the end result. I know it and I will make it so. All of the mentors and teachers that have helped me become… well, me so far are the inspiration. They’re the ones who believed in me and still do even when I find it difficult to believe in myself. I want to be that. I want to be what they are to me. What John Keating was to his class. To let them know that they, too, can change the world when they are their true and authentic selves. Let nobody dim the light of their creative souls. I just gotta keep following the path that I am on. I have to cherish each amazing achievement and learn from each terrible fall. I have to navigate all the bumps in the road and understand that not everything is meant to bring me down. I’ll get there some day. I will. I just have to keep living — really living — as best as I can in the mean time.

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 I close my post with this: A heartfelt thank you to Robin Williams, for his light and for his ability to portray some of the most inspirational characters film of my time has produced. Rest well.   7.21.19518.11.2014

 

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2 thoughts on “No Matter What People Tell You, Words and Ideas Can Change the World.

  1. As I read this, I shed an emotional tear for a tremendous talent who left our world a bit too soon. My heart goes out to his family and friends and to anyone who has had the cinematic experience that was, is, and will always be the great Robin Williams. May he rest in peace.

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