O Captain! My Captain! is the moving farewell address voiced by students at the fictional Welton Academy towards their teacher John Keating as played by the enigmatic Robin Williams in the 1989 drama ‘Dead Poets Society’. I first saw this film about 20 years ago as an impressionable 20 something year old yet the Latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem’ remains with me. This was the challenge offered by teacher Keating to his charges. Carpe diem translated means seize the day.
This story revolves around challenging traditional thinking. It supports stepping out from your conditioning into who you really are. It provokes you to find and capture the opportunities around you.
In the film, students are encouraged to stand on their desks to look at the world differently. In response to an impromptu protest from a student, Keating counsels him to be “wise, not stupid”. In lieu of the confines of the classroom, unstructured lessons are held outdoors.
Many of the thoughts and beliefs I held as a young man were reflective of my parents. I had been naturally ‘conditioned’ by an environment in which I had lived for over 17 years. This is true for most of us. We are reflective of the environments in which we were shaped: the good, the bad and the ugly!
Critically, by recognising this, we allow ourselves to be reshaped. We permit our thinking to challenged. We afford ourselves an opportunity to grow.
Standing on your desk may seem trivial however elevating your vision beyond what you normally see is essential to growth. Viewing a situation or circumstance from a different perspective can release solutions. Wisely considering your response to stimuli can open additional doors.
The phrase “O Captain! My Captain!” comes from a Walt Whitman poem about the assassination of US President Abraham Lincoln. It refers to the slain President for whom they both mourn and honour. There are those in our life who deserve this title – those people who see more within us than perhaps we see ourselves; those who challenge our thinking; those who encourage us to step out of the ordinary.
Allow yourself to be reshaped. Permit your thinking to be challenged. Afford yourself the opportunity to grow.
Start today: as you read this, why not stand up on your desk?
Let hope rise.
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