Oh Captain, My Captain
If life is a dance, I have two left feet.
Which of course makes it hard to buy shoes! Ha!
But if you’ve seen me dance, or do Zoomba, or even Tai Chi, you know what I mean.
Everyone else is moving in sync to the right, I’m moving, always with great conviction…to the left.
It’s just my nature.
Always has been.
As much as I desperately want to avoid embarrassment, it is next to impossible for me to just blend in, to stay inside the lines, to behave and “dance” like everyone else. But, I really have tried, and it has been exhausting.
Just like I play my own soundtrack in my head, as it runs through my life (don’t you?)
I have my own unique, sometimes awkward and clumsy choreography; which I often dance alone.
It may not be pretty, but it has gotten me here.
Every once in a great while, I’m supremely graceful; like the Prima Ballerina in Swan Lake.
I’m dancing around, up on pointed toes, with my neck long, and my arms fluttering slightly.
The only problem is, the rest of the world is doing a tap routine, and I look like an ass!
So, here’s the thing: I had a humongous epiphany after catching The Dead Poet’s Society on HBO a couple of weeks back. Damn! I had forgotten what a great movie that is, OR, I didn’t have the depth of character in 1989 to fully grasp it’s meaning. Probably the latter.
In case you don’t know, or can’t remember, it takes place in an elite all boys prep school, in the 1950’s. There’s a new, unorthodox English professor, Mr. Keating, who, among other things, has them stand on top of their desks to see the world in a different way. He also challenges them to call him “O Captain, My Captain.”
John Keating: “O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain.”
He is pushing these boy-men to embrace great literature and poetry, to become free thinkers, to question authority and buck convention. In other words, my Holy Grail!
Bear with me here, because it was this next scene that really got me.
He has his class assemble in the school courtyard, where, as an exercise in self-expression, he has them walk in a circle. A couple swing their arms, several stomp their feet, but soon they are all marching perfectly in time. Although they find it funny, Mr. Keating is proving a point.
We may start off marching to our own beat, but we soon succumb to the herd mentality. We all fall in step, conform, becoming part of that herd.
It’s encoded in our DNA.
Mr. Keating wants them to break that code, to consider being another way.
Perhaps, to even entertain the idea that it might be okay to go left, instead of right, to dance to their own untamed choreography.
Hmmmmmm. Maybe my feet aren’t broken after all.
John Keating: Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go,
John Keating: “That’s baaaaad.” [imitating a goat] Frost said, “Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Amen, Captain, My Captain.