What Will Be Your Verse?
Six decades ago, I was in high school. My English teachers had an assignment each semester, which involved memorizing 100-lines of poetry or prose. It was our choice what we chose to memorize. Therefore, each of us would pick readings that we liked.
I read Whitman’s poem…and never memorized it. I didn’t even try. It didn’t make sense to me at all. However, for each semester, I memorized, reluctantly, many poems and prose. In fact, I hated that exercise. Nevertheless, as I write this essay in my twilight years, I can still recite quite closely the words of various writers that I memorized nearly six decades ago.
Halfway between high school and now, I went to see Dead Poet’s Society. This is the poster of that movie, which hangs in my home.
I loved Dead Poet’s Society. Interestingly, Professor John Keating recited Whitman’s poem that I didn’t like in the movie as his postscript in his lecture to his class.
While I understood what Keating was asking regarding what verse will his students contribute to “the powerful play” called life, it still didn’t grab me. “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary” grabbed me. Nonetheless, Whitman’s “Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring…” didn’t cause me to question anything.
Others, in the world in which I grew up, have wondered and wandered their worlds not grasping meaning either. Alfie was one in the lost souls in the mid-60s. Alfie was a movie about a person who was lost in life. His life was merely aimless wandering. The title song was an attempt to give Alfie a purpose in life, which he lacked.
I thought back in the 60s that I had a purpose. Issues like the civil rights movement motivated me. While those types of causes were and still are valid, I am different in my twilight years. George Bernard Shaw influenced me. He wrote, “Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
There are many reasons for this transformation. Over a decade ago, I danced with death twice. Once that I realized that I had done the dance, it made a vast difference in the way I live life and what I see as valuable in the world around me.
Keating warns all of us, “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!”
So, in closing, what will be your lines contributed to “the powerful play” called life?
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