Readers and lovers of literature, especially of poetry, may be familiar with the famous poem from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass featured in the movie The Dead Poets Society, which starred the late Robin Williams, and a very young Ethan Hawk. The last four verses of that poem, “O Me! O Life!” continues to touch my mind and heart in a powerful way. To see that line in action see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omveFR-2hmg, and be moved by this performance. The lines I speak of are at the very end:
“The question, O me! So sad, recurring—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 will contribute a verse.” –Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass
These four lines alone do not adequately portray the passion in the entire poem, so see http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/182088 for the poem in its entirety. You could consider this blog post a continuation from last week’s post, touching upon graduation season. I have now attended five graduations and have two more to attend before the middle of June (phew!), but I am always moved by the joy and excitement I see and hear at these events. I make serious mention of both Whitman’s poem and Robin Williams’s performance, because of what both works of art (and yes, literature and film are art forms to me), convey as important to our young people today—finding your passion, living life with purpose, and leaving a legacy for others. It is important to ALL people, not just the young.
I mentioned in previous posts that I wished “enough” for those graduates I had the honor of addressing personally. In hindsight, I now wished I had told them to contribute their verse to the powerful play of life. Whether that verse be done anonymously, or with extravagance and flair, it must be the individual’s personal contribution to life and living. In the fourth installment of my book series, The Last Prophet, Uriel’s Light, we see that the main characters are doing just that. They are leaving their verses behind. The prophetess is leaving her messages from God for all the world to consider in order to change for the better. The fourth recipient of a guardian protector, Sheila, is leaving her verse in the form of how she loves her daughter, her friends and all those she loves. Lastly, the angels leave not only their verses, but their mark on the hearts and minds in the lives they have touched. All have something they leave behind as their life verse. All have a legacy that will continue on in one way or another.
Speaking on a more personal level, in my life as an author, a social justice advocate, an educator, and a parent and family member, I have begun leaving my verse(s) in multiple places. Those who interact with me regularly via social media, or face-to-face, or on the phone (I still believe in dialing and talking to folks), or even text message, know that I am the same person with the same values and the same beliefs and the same convictions and the same passion no matter what environment we may have met. This is because the verses I contribute are the same—just not presented in the same way. The message may be the same, but depending on who I am speaking to, I present that information or the sentiment on a level the other person can relate to and understand. That is who I am and how I do things. I love people to a fault, but I do so fiercely and with compassion. A friend of mine from church once said that my passions bubble very close to the surface. I didn’t know what to make of it at the time, but in retrospect he was accurate in that estimation. I am leaving my legacy through my work, all my work, and through my children, and through the memories I leave with the lives I’ve touched.
My verse is different from yours. You might not know your verse yet, but each day you discover it as you LIVE life with passion. The most powerful line in all the works I mentioned earlier comes from the same video of The Dead Poets Society, and spoken so eloquently by Robin Williams portraying Professor Keating:
“…That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse… What will your verse be?”
… and so what has YOUR verse been so far? OR what verse do you hope to contribute to the “powerful play?” Please comment in the space provided.
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