“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. Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all 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?
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.
– John Keating in Dead Poets Society
Robin Williams as John Keating gave me the words that have inspired me the most. I think these lines from Dead Poets Society was what removed forever all doubts in my mind about the path of study I had chosen. It confirmed what I had always believed in and told me in much better words what I had tried so hard to convey to doubters and mockers who said that I was either dumb or just plain lazy to have opted to study Literature.
And after Dead Poets Society, my arguments were firmer and had the ring of conviction to them. I truly believe that poetry, beauty, romance and love are what keep humans sane. It’s the insanity of the writers and artists and lovers that keeps the world sane. But for them, where would you and I be?
I received the news of Robin Williams’ death with much sadness. More so because the man who had made so many of us smile and had inspired a whole generation as John Keating was battling the demons of depression himself and the man who had urged me to Carpe Diem had chosen to take away his own life. As someone who meets those demons every once in a while, I do have a semblance of understanding of what it must have been like. At least an iota of it. Maybe that is why I don’t see the irony in it that so many seem to see. To me it seems a possibility, a very sad and terrifying possibility.
I join the thousands who are mourning his death and despite meeting him as Aladdin’s Genie, Mrs.Doubtfire, Sean Maguire, Patch Adams, Alan Parrish and the Bicentennial Man among others, to me Robin Williams will always be John Keating. The man who spoke the words I live by. The words that have always encouraged me and reassured me that I was doing the right thing every time I put pen to paper. The words that lit up long dark tunnels that threatened to suffocate me.
Thank you John Keating. Thank you for the light you lit for others even as you stood in the dark. You will be remembered. And I hope I can contribute a verse.