I remember the first time I watched Dead Poets Society; it was towards the end of the year in one of my English classes and my teacher wheeled out an archaic crt tv and popped in a vhs that I was fully prepared to doodle through. When Robin Williams was introduced in the opening scene, however, I was hooked. Like any other 90’s kid, I grew up with Williams and gave special attention to anything he did which absolutely worked in my favor for The Dead Poets Society.
It was a film about a group of boys coming of age in a prestigious school surrounded by professors and parents that cared less about their sons’ passions and dreams and more about whether they would be a doctor or a lawyer when they grew up. Then in walked Williams’ character John Keating who taught the boys to not only appreciate literature but also to learn how to appreciate their own lives through it.
He brought new life to dusty old quotes for the characters and movie goers alike- bland books about Walt Whitman or Shakespeare now became interesting as they were given a more meaningful context. Reading and writing were portrayed as integral to the human experience and rather than putting it at odds with math and science, Keating insists that all are noble pursuits; that science is necessary to sustain life but poetry is what we stay alive for.
I don’t think there was a single quote from Keating that didn’t rock my teenage brain and to this day, over a decade later, I still return to the film when I’m in need of inspiration or to be reminded that no matter how futile I’m afraid writing is, that there is worth to writing. That even daily journaling has meaning and to stay true to yourself and your passions. There are a few quotes in particular from Keating that stay with me when even the grind of life becomes too much and in true Robin Williams fashion, they always are able to bring a silver lining to even some of the worst days. Some of the most notable being: