When “Seizing the Day” Falls Short
In the film “Dead Poet’s Society” Robin Williams plays John Keating, an English professor at a boys’ prep school. He starts the year by leading his class to the hall where the school’s early class members are enshrined. Keating tells them to look closely at the pictures, “They are not that different from you, are they? Same hair cuts, same hormones. Invincible, just like you feel…They believe they are destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope. Did they wait too long to make their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you…Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” It is a powerful scene. The psalmist gives us a similar message, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Life is but a vapour. None of us knows which day will be our last. At the same time, none of us wants to waste our life. We want to know that what we did was “meaningful.” But what is the meaning of life? Which actions matter and which ones don’t?
The secret to life?
The meaning of life is a questioned often pondered by filmmakers. In City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a middle age man facing midlife angst. His buddies take him on a desert cattle drive, led by a leathery, tough-as-burnt-biscuits old cowboy named Curly who commands instant fear and respect. Crystal’s character cautiously develops a bond with Curly.
On a side trip to save a pregnant cow, Curly asks, “Do you know what the secret to life is?” He holds up one finger and says “This. One thing. Just one thing. You stick to this and the rest don’t mean (nothing.)”
Mitch replies, “But what is the one thing?”
Curly cryptically smiles, “That’s what you have to find out.” Unfortunately, Curly keels over, before disclosing any more information. Mitch later has an epiphany while rescuing a calf in a flash flood. He realizes that the “one thing” that gives life meaning is not some universal truth; it is what you decide it is. Mitch decides his ultimate meaning in life is his family.
Whose story is this? Continue reading…
Thank you for saying this. Our definitions of words can really hinder us when we have a different understanding of the words being used.