AB Eco November 24, 2003
That life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. John Keating
The line above taken from the movie Dead Poets Society beautifully captures what I am about to discuss in this paper, that history is an unbreakable inescapable continuum and that each of us, as members of an ever changing world, will always have a role in its unfolding. Before delving into the subpoints that will prove this statement, allow me to first fortify the premise that we are working on. History is an unbreakable, inescapable continuum because history happens every waking moment of our lives. History just keeps on going on. It doesnt have a pause button. Every action a living, breathing person decides to undertake may contribute to a certain history be it something as big as the history of an entire nation or as small as the persons own history. And yet be it big or small, that history will always be important to someone because it is through certain mens choices that history is masterfully created. In this masterful creation of history, each of us is called to contribute a verse or two. And just as a group of 17 year olds were able to understand life in the movie Dead Poets Society, allow a 19-year-old to share her own ideas about the creation of history.
We cannot escape history. Todd wanted to be passive. Yes, he wanted to be in the group but he didnt want to actively participate. But Neil taught him that he cant stay that way forever because hes already part of the Dead Poets Society. Lets take the Dead Poets society as a microcosm of our world then. We are all part of this world and we cant be just mere observers. Being a part of history is a role we cant evade because everyday, we make decisions, and these decisions can affect not only our lives but other peoples lives. We all have a certain degree of responsibility towards the making of history. Thus, in the movie, it was difficult for the other members of the group to accept that Cameron told the administration about their group to wash his hands clean from the intrigue and its corresponding responsibility.
Carpe diem. Carpe diem means seize the day and to seize the day merely asks one to make oneself count in the unstoppable force that is history. Thespians often say, There are no small roles, only small actors. And indeed this is true even for the making of history. The roles we play in our lives are inherently valuable but it is up to us to make their worth obvious. Yes, we will survive this lifetime being eternally mediocre, but we cannot feel ALIVE unless we have a passion for the roles we play. A passionless Yawp didnt do anything for Todds confidence but a loud, barbaric YAWP! brought out the poet in him. Likewise, we should seize every moment of our lives to stand out, to make a difference and to even go beyond our perceived limitations.
Carpe diem requires guts not foolishness. Carpe diem may require some guts, courage and tons of confidence as shown by Knox going through anything just to be with the girl of his dreams, but not foolishness such as Neil committing suicide. More than anything, the most important thing needed to create history while employing the mantra Carpe diem! is LIFE. Seizing the day aims to primarily make life better for oneself and for other people. The events in our lives may disappoint us at times, but it doesnt give us the right to cut ourselves out from history.
Change versus security in tradition. Stasis always leaves one feeling secure. Mr. Nolan afraid that Mr. Keating was being non-conformist said, Well, John, the curriculum here is set. It’s proven it works. If you question, what’s to prevent them from doing the same? Change sometimes makes people scared because shaking the status quo can bring about havoc that could forever destroy the course of history and its institutions. And indeed, this is sometimes true. However, we should be cautious not to be very strict followers of olden ways for while tradition and conformity brings security of status one must remember that it is through change and through those who dared to initiate change that history and its heroes thrive. As Henry Ford bluntly said in an interview by the Chicago Tribune, History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we made today. While I cant really agree that we dont like tradition, what we can infer from this statement is that while it is important to look back at the past, we should not neglect the history we are creating at the present.
To conclude, being a part of history is not a matter to be decided upon because whether we like it or not, we are forever in its clutches. In the making of history, we may not always have control over other people and their decision as Mr. Keating had to unwillingly accept that he had to leave the school. But the choice as to how we want to live history rests solely on us as individuals. We can take on the role of a hero, a tyrant, a traitor, a gracious leader, a spy, a sinner or a saint. Surely, in a couple more decades, we may no longer be flowers in bloom but fertilizers for daffodils (as is every person from the past) but it is how we live our lives today that will determine if other individuals will take it upon themselves to stand on top of their chairs in admiration for the verse weve contributed to the masterful creation of history.