And with these words, my tears started falling. By the end, when everyone of them were standing, I was bawling like a baby.
Only those who’ve watched the movie (and therefore understood the significance and emotional import of the scene) or had their own “Captain, My Captain” in their lives would feel the burn of this single line that defined the entire movie.
For me, my Captain left me at a juncture in my life when I needed him to guide me. Because I was naturally immature, and naturally indecisive, I needed someone to make my decisions for me.
For a long time, I was angry at him – not for leaving me, but for leaving his profession, which I thought was his calling. I felt angry because he was so good at what he does, of leading students out of a dark place, of showing them their light; of giving them hope, inspiration, kindness — that I thought it was such a tragedy he would stop using these talents to follow another calling. In my mind I was angrily rebutting him, “You’re saying you’re answering God’s call, but don’t you know? This is your calling. This is your life. You don’t need to leave this life to formally offer yourself to Him. You’re already His servant, and this is His job for you.”
In his letter to me, he told me the things I wrote were one of the reasons why he decided to join the order. I guess that’s kind of ironic. The man whom I looked up to as the best teacher I’ve ever had is leaving teaching because my writings inspired him to do it.
It wasn’t until years later when I learned he never really left teaching, that he just took a detour from his journey, and that his life, and his gift would never be wasted, that I finally took a sigh of relief.
This man, this giant among giants in his field, changed the lives of a lot of young kids for the better. I was one of those kids. And his talent, his gift from God, is the ability to look into a child and see, not a vessel, but a pearl.
I know I’m not the only one in my batch, nor the batch before me, or even the batch before them, who’s had their lives touched by this man. I wouldn’t be writing these words today, or even be waxing eloquently of times gone by, if this man never showed me “my light.”
This movie is the summation of everything that happened during my time as a student of his. Dead Poets is a reminder of a time in my life when I was a little less scared, a little more hopeful, and a lot more inspired. I’ve since then gone on and moved on with my life. But this movie, and those memories will forever live on in my mind as the “time of my life.”
“But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.” – John Keating
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”
To Robin Williams, a man who burned so bright, his light shone for so many people. (And at the back of my mind, I hear him saying to me: burn Jao, burn! For if you stop burning, someone, somewhere in this world would die of cold).
Here are some of my Captain’s most memorable posts
I’m sorry sir, I failed you. I never burned. I was too afraid of burning myself out like Robin did.