When you think of Robin Williams, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Mork and Mindy? Mrs. Doubtfire? Good Morning, Vietnam? For me, what comes to mind is Dead Poet’s Society, “dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life”, which is from a quote from Henry David Thoreau
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want it spoiled after these twenty-five years, stop reading here.
Robin Williams played John Keating, an unorthodox teacher who was a member of the Dead Poet’s Society and urged his students to suck the marrow out of life.
One of the students takes a part in a school play, is a great success, but is lambasted by his father and commits suicide. Mr. Keating is asked to leave the school, and has he does, his students stand on their desks and proclaim, “O Captain, My Captain”.
I don’t know the full story behind Robin Williams’ death, perhaps in some ways life has mirrored art in the death of a great actor. Yet perhaps the best homage is to stand with the students and say, “O Captain, My Captain”
It’s a typical day at work; talking with a person at my office and another on the phone, as I check my email and messages on Facebook.
It is with a heavy heart that I share Oliver passed away
I keep my composure as I mind moves from work to grief.
Oliver was the grandson of one of my college classmates. I have been following his struggles though my friend’s Facebook status updates and praying for him and his family. I post about Oliver’s passing and send out a few emails.
My office is a co-working space and there is a big project going on at the conference table. I overhear one of my co-workers ask about the airstrikes in Iraq. I glance at my newsfeed.
U.S. launches second wave of airstrikes in Iraq
I glance up at the raw ceiling of the workspace. My eldest daughter was five months old when the first Gulf War started. I was working for a financial services firm. In the evening, we watched the late night news of the airstrikes from our third floor walkup in Manhattan. I connected with my computer via dialup lines to the trading system where I could get more news and see how the markets responded.
I watched the airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2001 hours after my youngest daughter was born
Yesterday, a child came out to wonder
That’s how I started my blog post about Fiona’s birth at the start of that war. Today’s airstrike comes after Oliver has passed away.
I glance at Twitter. One person has posted,
Round up Obama &every liberal n America & drop them off right n the middle of Iraq, let them do a 2 min gay pride parade for the last time!
It is the sort of extremism that is indistinguishable from Al Qaeda which brings about so more hatred, war and suffering. I pray for the person who tweeted it, and then retweet Pope Francis.
Please take a moment today to pray for all those who have been forced from their homes in Iraq. #PrayForPeace
My coworkers have been preparing for National Health Center Week, putting together goodie bags. There are boxes all over the place and one of them comments that it looks a lot like Christmas.
Dar Williams’ song, “The Christians and The Pagans” comes to mind.
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.
How do I pull all of this together? Oliver’s passing, the airstrikes in Iraq, the hatred by extremists, here and in Iraq, the prayers of The Pope and of the characters in Dar’s song?
The final words of “Lord of the Flies” comes to mind:
Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
I continue to use Facebook as a writing prompt. This morning, I looked at status updates from my friends. Many were pictures of their kids or their vacations. The line from William Carlos Williams’ poem, The Red Wheelbarrow, came to mind, “So much depends…”
Next, as if Facebook were reading my mind, came an advertisement for Depends. I’ve turned fifty-five, not eighty-five.
A few friends posted about “Townhouse” closing in Washington, DC. This was a watering hole of young progressive technology activists years ago that I would stop at on my trips to DC. I still have some Townhouse stories, but I’ll save them for another time.
Another friend posted about going to Arima, an old hot spring town in Kobe, Japan. Then, a friend posted about Jack, an old dog that had been rescued. It was his first time going to a beach, and he swam like a seal, smiling from ear to ear. Others posted further reflections from Falcon Ridge.
A big theme seems to be travels, and especially, travelling to new places. My mind wanders to Wim Wenders’s Road Trilogy and from there to my blog posts a while back virtually visiting places from William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways.
Are these Facebook prompts, as well as some other possible upcoming adventures, leading to some new travel directions upon which so much depends? Time will tell.
It has been more than twenty four hours since I left Falcon Ridge, after standing on a hillside singing songs about our shared humanity. This morning, I read through friends posts on Facebook, the sort of stuff we glance at quickly as we head off about our days. Yet so many of the posts could easily be folk songs, short stories, or perhaps a key part of a novel. Happy 8th Anniversary to the Nia Alliance. Holy cow!! 2 years ago today we had the best wedding ever. What a great race for all my peeps today . John's having surgery today. Merry Lughnasadh, Y'all.
According to Wikipedia, Lughnasadh is “a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man”. Often called Lammas, it is important to those who love Romeo and Juliet, since Juliet was born on Lammas Eve.This year, Lughnasadh came just a few days after Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.
There are so many writing prompts that could come from all of this, so many directions you could go. My mind wanders to Townes Van Zandt, “If I needed you, would you come to me, would you come to me and ease my pain?” This thought leads to “Desperately Seeking Susan”, and Roberta saying, “Desperate. I love that word.”
I guess that is some of what I like about Falcon Ridge. It is a reminder that words have meaning, that behind the words are stories, sometimes painful, often deep, and too easily overlooked in a Facebook post.
My friend Dave is watching his grandson struggle with health problems and wrote, “Yesterday reinforced it is so real and more than words on the computer screen. It is really an epic battle…”
Eid Mubarak, Merry Lughnasadh.
The alarm goes off at six,
as it does on most mornings.
Today, I will not rush down to the main stage
to put down my tarp.
I will not chat with my yearly friends,
trying to remember their names and stories.
I will not plan where my tarp goes,
Or do some Yoga positions while waiting;
Lots of stretches are needed when camping.
For breakfast, I will have oatmeal,
Like I do on most mornings,
Except for at Falcon Ridge,
When I never managed to get around to it,
And instead eat fresh fruit and breakfast bars
Made with oats.
Today, I will grab leftovers from the fridge for lunch,
Instead of some exotic food from a vendor.
I turn on my cellphone and hear it get flooded with waiting messages.
I visit Facebook pages and wish friends Happy Birthday
And listen to their stories there.
I will take a shower this morning, like I do most mornings,
Even though I took a shower last night.
It isn’t like the solar showers,
Or baby wipe showers of Falcon Ridge,
I’ll remove more mud and sun block,
But try to keep the peace.
I’ll try to keep the peace, the hope, the vision and dreams,
As I go about my work day life.
Draw more, write more, be a better friend,
And share compassion to all around me.
It’s like New Year’s in the summer,
How long can I hold these resolutions,
Never turning back?