We don't read and write poetry because it's cute.
We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.
And the human race is filled with passion.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.
But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
To quote from Whitman,
"O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish;
what good amid these, O me, O life?"
Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity;
that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse.
What will your verse be?
(Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society, 1989)
My thoughts on the morning after Mr. Williams' death:
The legends are like a tornado in a good way: its real impact cannot be measured until it’s gone.
The legends are like a good book: you don’t want it to end; and when it does, both the author and the reader realize that what they have experienced together will never repeat itself.
Unlike a good book, which somehow can be accessed and read whenever you want, your opportunity to have a relationship of some kind with a living legend cannot be repeated if you missed it.
I am not into movies or TV. I must admit Robin Williams is one of the legends I missed with great regret. (Regret in the sense that I could have paid more attention to him and made him more a part of my life.) Elvis also comes to mind. If not for the grace of God, St. John Paul II would have been another one.
In What Dreams May Come (1998), Mr. Williams said, “A human life is just a heartbeat in heaven”, which to me is another way of saying, “For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday or as a watch of the night” (Psalm 90:4).
Coming home from morning exercise and coffee, I heard on the radio the quote cited in the beginning of this post. I was able to find it on the internet. Mr. Williams deserves my deep admiration for just this quote alone! That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? - What an eloquent and powerful way to implore the meaning of life!
One final thought: In so many ways, Mr. Williams was an exceedingly kind and extraordinary human person. He had contributed his verse and played not a small role in this human drama still unfolding before our very eyes. And yet, like so many legends before him, he had his share of mishaps and failures: drugs, alcoholism, personal secrets lurking in the darkness of his private life which was ended in a tragic manner all too soon. We know more or less how Hollywood sees him, and by and large how America and the world see him. But how is God going to judge him? The more I think about it, the more the Catholic doctrine of purgatory makes sense to me.
I shall conclude this reflection with a prayer for Mr. Williams using Psalm 86:15, a prayer that always warms my heart and gives me hope when I think of all the good people, including my beloved mother, who have come and gone before me, leaving their footprints in my heart - footprints that look so beautiful and yet on close examination are full of defects.
"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity." (Psalm 86:15)
May God in his infinite mercy receive Mr. Williams into His bosom of eternal bliss,
not because of Mr. Williams’ contribution to humanity,
as dazzling an artist and comedian as he was on this great stage of human drama,
but on the merit of the salvific grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.