My family was about to sit down to dinner the other night when the phone rang. My older sister was calling from work. She told us that she had been reading the news, and she saw Robin Williams had died.
I don’t know about all of you, but I adored him as an actor. One of the most amazing movies I have ever seen was Dead Poet’s Society, where Robin Williams played Mr. Keating, a sensitive, motivational, brilliant and individual teacher in an all boy’s school. Set in the 1950’s, the boys were stuck in a strict system, and they wanted to get out. Charlie Dalton, Neil Perry, Knox Overstreet, and Todd Anderson were all struggling with personal problems, but when Mr. Keating came along, they were presented with a new way of thinking that was either another problem, or a radical solution to their troubles. Todd, shy and silent, was suffocating under the pressure his parents and the school gave him. Through Keating, he learned to stand. He learned to stand up for himself, and he learned to stand up for others. Charlie, a wayward, charismatic rich kid, found affirmation, often demonstrating Keating’s point, and leading the other boys without fear. Knox Overstreet fell in love, and inspired by Keating, went all out in pursuing the girl of his dreams. Neil, however, was caught. He couldn’t let go of the rules, and but he couldn’t let go of Keating, either. So he hung in the middle, in a dangerous position between one way of life and another. Metaphorically speaking, he was on his knees, with Keating pulling him up on one side, and his father on the other. And Neil gave out.
Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary. Mr. Keating encouraged his class to live life to the fullest. But this message was misinterpreted by many. To Richard Cameron, ‘Carpe Diem’ meant breaking the rules and living wild, without responsibility or morals. To Neil, it meant there was only one way to live right, and if he couldn’t let go of the rules, he couldn’t live right. And he thought it was better not to live at all.
This isn’t what Carpe Diem means. This isn’t what seizing the day is. Cameron thought he had to resist Keating and his ideas because he thought it was encouraging a lifestyle he didn’t agree with, so he turned Keating in. Neil thought he was failing Keating by following his father’s wishes, so he found a way out. Neither boy understood. And apparently, neither did Robin Williams. These characters, and the real life man, gave up on life too soon. They didn’t understand how to seize the day.
Seizing the day is not about going out and doing crazy, new, and exciting things. If it were, then very few people could do such a thing. Adventures like that require money and time that most people can’t afford. What if you have family? You can’t just ditch your responsibilities and throw all caution to the wind.
So what is seizing the day?
Well, I don’t know. I’m a firm believer that absolute statements, that pinning down life’s meaning with special, flowery language, is a very dangerous thing to do. It might give us the same impression that it gave Neil and Cameron. That living can only be done right in one specific way. And that’s not true. Everyone has to find their own life. Everyone has to find their own way to “live deliberately,” to “make their lives extraordinary.”
To me, seizing the day is about appreciating each moment. It means stopping sometimes to listen to your heart beat, and realizing, “My heart is beating. Right now. I am alive and my heart is beating and there is air in my lungs and I am standing here in my kitchen with the sun in my eyes and a million things to be doing, and I could not be happier. Because I am alive right now. And that is amazing.”
I don’t know what I’m going to contribute to the world. I don’t know how I’m going to seize the day tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after. But right now, I am sitting on my laptop and celebrating the fact that I am alive by writing a blog article. And don’t think that this is insignificant. Look at how much impact your life has on other people. The smallest things can make the biggest changes. That’s why it’s important that you live to the fullest. Because other people will see you, and think, “I should live like them. I should live like that.” Every life is invaluable. Every act could shake the world. Don’t think that at any point, your life has lost meaning. You have every potential to change someone’s life. Just because you aren’t now doesn’t mean you won’t. So hang in there. Carpe Diem. You’ve got it in you. Please don’t forget that.
A quote from Dead Poet’s Society: 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?
What will your verse be?