Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Forget them, forget them! Tell me about that blanket!"

"Mr Anderson thinks that everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing".

"Dead Poets Society" is an amazing movie.  It's one of those rare gems that is full of wisdom. Every scene has insights on life that can be useful to us all.

Robin Williams' character sees Mr Anderson's pain. He knows he feels worthless and ashamed of revealing himself to the world. And he knows that the freethinking that he can learn through poetry can change that and free him to become the beautiful person he is inside. 

In this scene he first pulls Mr Anderson out of his comfort zone by making him stand in front of the class and "yawp". The kids laugh, he's embarrassed. But all that begins to change when Robin Williams' character makes him turn his back to the class and look at the picture of Walt Whitman hanging on the wall. He describes the picture of Walt Whitman as a "sweaty-toothed mad man". When Mr Anderson looks down from that picture his teacher makes it impossible for him to look at the class by circling him. His focus is no longer on his peers but on his teacher. 

Then he goes further and covers Mr Anderson's eyes with his hand and forces him to throw out whatever pops into his head.  There is no right or wrong, it's whatever is in his head - "even if it's complete gibberish". They keep spinning as teacher tries to get student to forget everything but the moment and digging inside himself. The following brilliant dialogue ensues:

Todd Anderson: "I close my eyes . . . "
Mr Keating: "Yes?"
Todd: "and this image floats beside me"
Keating: "the sweaty-toothed mad man"
Todd: "the sweaty-toothed mad man with a stare that pounds my brain"
Keating: "Oh, that's excellent, now give him action, make him do something:
Todd: "His hands reach out and choke me"

Keating takes his hands from Todd's eyes and backs away just a bit but keeps his hands on Todd's lapels. Todd's eyes remain closed.
Keating: "That's excellent, wonderful, wonderful"
Todd: "and all the time he's mumbling"
Keating: "What's he mumbling?"
Todd: "mumbling truth"

Keating removes his hands from Todd's lapels.

Keating: "Yes"
Todd: "Truth like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold"

Keating smiles and backs off, begins to let him continue on his own, but the class laughs, Todd opens his eyes.  He's embarrassed and afraid. Keating glances over his shoulder at the class for a moment but says nothing to them. He immediately goes to Todd. He reaches his hand up to cover his eyes again.

Keating: "Forget them, forget them! Stay with the blanket. Tell me about the blanket!"

Todd stammers at first but then continues.

Todd: "You can push it, stretch it, it will never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it will never cover any of us"

Mr Keating backs away completely and squats down, crossing his arms across his chest to listen. You see the students in back of him, quiet, focused on Todd.

Todd: "From the moment we enter crying to the moment we leave dying, it will cover just your face"

Todd's demeanor changes, he's calmer as he continues.

Todd: "As you wail and cry and scream"

He opens his eyes. The other students are looking at him with dropped jaws. He sees Mr Keating and smiles. Keating rises, places his hand on the back of his head and pulls his forehead to his own.

Keating: "Don't you forget this".

The students are clapping.
This, my friends, is what writing is all about. This is the transformation it can cause. But this is also what life is all about. 

"Forget them, forget them! Tell me about the blanket!" Tell the world about the damn blanket. The blanket that is never quite enough. The blanket you hope will keep you warm but never quite gets the job done. Because every person on planet Earth has such a blanket. And every person on planet earth is afraid of letting anyone know that blanket exists. But it does. 

When we begin sharing whatever that blanket is for us, the world may laugh, they probably will.  They laugh because you are expressing something they are not used to hearing expressed. They laugh because it's uncomfortable to hear someone express feelings of any depth. But you keep talking anyway. Because it's inside you and dying to get out.

In the end many will do as Todd's fellow students did in this scene. They will applaud and say "Yeah!" and hoot and holler because you had the courage to say what they all feel. There will be many who do not but "Forget them. Forget them. Tell me about the blanket".

This scene begins with Mr Keating saying:

"Mr Anderson thinks that everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing".

He says something else that I left out:

"I think you're wrong. I think you have something inside of you that is worth a great deal".

Every one of us does. The world makes us feel ashamed of who we are. If we don't fit their mold then we should feel embarrassed and worthless - that's the message we are delivered every single day. But here's the irony of that message. 

Every one of us is different but we are all very much alike as well. That very pain that they tell us we have to hide because it doesn't fit into their mold? They feel the same pain. That thought you've had that is contrary to the one that pervades society today? There are many others who have had the same thought. And you writers - those words that flood your mind and heart as you experience life? They perfectly describe how someone else is feeling and they would be touched and encouraged to know that someone else feels those same things they have been afraid to express.

So tell us about the damn blanket! Forget them! I think you have something inside of you that is worth a great deal!  

1 comment:

  1. I love this movie but haven't seen it in so long and certainly not since becoming a writer. Thanks for reminding me about this wonder gem and its inspiring message.