As a sophomore, my English teacher was a was an energetic, brilliant guy who made every one of his students feel important, valued, and brilliant.
We loved Fr. Hadel for his humor, teaching style, stories, passion for life and love of each of his students.
Late in the first semester he rolled a television into the classroom, stood next to it, and shared that he both wanted to become more like this teacher in this movie and longed for each one of us to become more like the boys in it.
With that, he walked toward the door, flipped off the lights, and hit play on the VCR. The television came to life and a movie about a bunch of excessively privileged high school boys at a boarding school began to play.
As the boys in the movie make their way through the rigors of the education, they are exposed to an entirely different approach to school, literature, poetry, and life.
In one of my favorite scenes the teacher, played by the great Robin Williams, ushers the boys to a trophy case and invites them look into the eyes of all the boys staring back. The pictures are in black and white. They’re dated, antiquated, blurry. They show former students vibrant and filled with hope playing sports, in classrooms or hanging out on the school steps.
And because the pictures were taken of students from a few generations in the past, Williams reminds the youthful men staring into the trophy case that none of those pictured are still alive.
Williams then has the boys gather even closer. He insists they lean in further and invites them to listen to what those former students are trying to teach them.
As the students lean in, we could tell that it wasn’t just their posture that was being moved, but their hearts, their heads, their very lives. The professors asks if they can hear what the pictures?
He then slowly, faintly, ghostly whispers, “Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
As a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, I watched these high school kids deeply moved by the great teacher and the invitation to seize the day. Dead Poet’s Society left an indelible impact that moved me deeply as a kid.
And still does today.
Seize the day, John.
Make your life extraordinary.
In high school, most of us were far less concerned about making our lives extraordinary and far more concerned about simply fitting in, belonging, finding ourselves. The questions we asked were more around what’s on the history test, what do you want to do for fun this weekend, and who will we invite as a date for the next dance? How to live Carpe Diem was a bit less important.
But as we age and grow in wisdom, we are challenged to ask much bigger questions.
Why am I here?
What is real success?
Does my life even matter?
And, if it does really matter, how can I make it extraordinary?
[Wrestling with life’s big questions, Leon Logothetis left his job, bought a cheap motorcycle and set off to travel the world surviving only on the generosity of others. The Kindness Diaries, streaming on Netflix, follows his journey. Leon is my most recent guest on the Live Inspired Podcast. Although he grew up lonely and felt he never fit in, when you tune into the podcast, you’ll hear the story of a man who is no longer lonely, believes with total certainty in human kindness, and has experienced firsthand its power to change the world. Listen here.]
My friends, although classrooms no longer have the old television cart with the VCR below it, and it may have been a while since you’ve seen Dead Poet’s Society, the great need we have to come face-to-face with both our mortality and the profound gift of the moment, of the day, of our lives remains extraordinarily important.
So today, as you prepare to race into your Monday and start your week, lean in with me for just a moment longer.
Listen to those who have come before us. In their wisdom they remind us something they likely wish they had heeded to a higher level while alive, but long for us to heed in our lives this day.
Seize the day, my friends.
Make your life extraordinary.