Thursday, March 20, 2008
Food for Worms
Keating: Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why does the writer use these lines?
Charlie: Because he's in a hurry.
Keating: No, ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die.
I think Robin Williams puts it well in the brilliant film, Dead Poets Society; we are food for worms lads, nothing more, nothing less. I have been thinking about this a bit lately, among other things, and I can’t shake the feeling that I am somehow wasting time. Like there are things grander and greater that I am destined for, and by working full-time as a valet I am somehow missing them. I hope it’s not true, and I think that its not, so long as I keep the vision, or, the faith, as it were.
Today I had the opportunity to speak with one of the top guys in Pepperdine Law, one of the schools I applied to, and he told me that, due to a number of factors, I probably didn’t have the best chance at being accepted to the school. My applying to Pepperdine was an uphill battle from the start, I knew that, but somehow hearing him vocalize what fears I had placed in the dark recesses of my mind initially filled me with self-doubt. I questioned my wanting to go to law-school, I questioned my confidence, and I questioned myself. It is a dark thing, I have to tell you, to acknowledge your own deficiencies and shortcomings; and it is a far more difficult thing to make your peace with them. So I allowed myself to give in to the doubt, to succumb to the voices of dismay, but only for five minutes…only five minutes.
I remember what I once heard Donald Miller say; that any good story is defined by antagonism. It isn’t just complemented by it, it is defined by it. Defined by the difficulty, the doubt, the darkness. I love that. When I really stop to think about it, the moments I feel defeated are swiftly followed by the moments I feel the most determined to fight back. It’s as if those moments exist to show me that life is hard, but that difficulty is juxtaposed with resistance. Resistance needs to be the defining element, not disappointment or professional discord. I once heard Will Smith say something in an interview that has stuck with me. When asked about what set him apart from other actors in Hollywood, he replied that it wasn’t his looks or his talent, but it was the simple fact that he was willing to, as he put it, “die on the treadmill.” Upon enumeration he explained that what he meant was that he would not be outworked by anyone. Someone else may be better looking or a better actor, but they would not be a harder worker. I love that idea, that it’s somehow not about how talented you are or competent or successful, but rather how willing you are to get back up. To defy the supposed reality of the human condition and in so doing refuse to give in to the enticing voices of discord. I want my life to be predicated on this principle of resistance, of refusing to believe for more than a few minutes that I am incapable of something great. I want today’s failure to be nothing more than the catalyst for tomorrow’s success.
Carpe Diem; another great idea from Dead Poets Society. An idea that calls into reality yours and my time here; it overlooks our successes and failures, our hopes and dreams, and asks us a simple question: have we seized the day? Have we made the most of what we have? Have we picked ourselves up from where we have fallen? In the end I know my story too will be defined by antagonism, and that I will one day be food for worms. How I sincerely hope that I will have the wisdom and the maturity to welcome my failings, and the strength to embrace struggle and resist.