Poetry and Quiet Desperation

“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…”

I am, of course, quoting John Keating (Robin Williams’ character) in Dead Poets Society.

I felt the pull to watch this modern classic (I don’t know if it is that but I call it so) this past week, perhaps because it’s my birthday week. Sometimes, in our believed contentment, we are called to introspect… I think.

What John Keating said about reading and writing poetry drew me to the movie – and when engrossed, I go further and check out IMDb – and I got to thinking why I read and write poetry, and prose for that matter.

This brought me to this:
“Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”

This quote from Henry David Thoreau has been a favorite of mine for many years. I guess it just didn’t quite hit home. I have also believed for a long time now that the teacher only appears when the student is ready (I don’t know who originally said this). Thus, although I may have experienced ‘quiet desperation’ on numerous occasions, I didn’t link it to Thoreau. Of course, he may have literally meant ‘men’ considering the era in which he lived but I am personally claiming right now that this famous quote actually says, “Most ‘men and women’ lead lives of quiet desperation.”

So, when that mysterious stirring starts, usually out of the blue and for no apparent reason, I pay attention. It is pretty pointless to do otherwise as it will find a way to get my attention.

I don’t wake up in the morning contemplative. I am hardly capable of anything worthwhile early in the day as my only concern is to get myself ready for and head out to work. A mind preoccupied with mundane matters cannot be profound, surely. The day progresses and my soul awakens. Only then am I confronted by the feeling of restlessness and emptiness.

My hollow feeling isn’t necessarily related to [lack of] material things. I may want some things but I will not automatically be pondering about the meaning of life. My cup might be full but I could find myself searching for an unknown thing and I am prompted to ask what I am missing. What will fill the hole?

We all have our missions. We exist for different purposes given to us. Most of the time, in our busyness, we don’t realize that we are not living on purpose. However, because we are too busy, we don’t realize that we are off-track. That is why I think that we must have quiet times, privately, on a regular basis. We must continue to look inside ourselves to stay the course, and when we have wandered off, we would hear the warning. When we don’t allow ourselves the venue and opportunity to listen to our subconscious or heart because of the noise of life’s distractions, eventually, our psyche will force us to listen through manifestations in our physical being.

Reflections do not always result to poetry. There are people who don’t even write their musings at all. They are not less fortunate. They are simply on a different path. What is important is that we recognize our ‘quiet desperation and break away from it’ as suggested by ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ in Dead Poets Society.

All the very best to us all!


2 thoughts on “Poetry and Quiet Desperation

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