avatarDead Poets Society

I received this picture over the iMessage wire and realized that this was my cue to rewatch Dead Poets Society, which I haven’t seen in such a long time that I have forgotten almost if not all of it. This was the right choice, as the selective amnesia allowed me to enjoy the film anew.

``What we stay alive for.''
“What we stay alive for.”

As many discussions as I have had with my friends and family members about it—I respect it very much so. Even more, do I respect the core idea, the theme of the movie, which I hold dearly. Uncover your free spirit, do not live someone else’s life, aspiring to someone else’s dreams, founding ideals on a quotation. We need not more engineers, lawyers, medics, or endless STEM graduates—we need more free thinkers.

My mother and I spoke on whether it was a sound decision on John Keating’s side to open this small little door to all of those kids locked in a cage made out of gold; even though, they might never get to see that door again, therefore, quite possibly, ending their time on Earth just the way Neil has done, played by the great Robert Sean Leonard. Well, I think it absolutely is. Even if they never reach out for the door (not a guarantee that they never will)—knowing that the door exists and can be one day opened—worth every struggle and pain, compared to the version of reality, where one doesn’t even know there is a way out. That, would be tragic.

I have had multiple teachers and professors who reminded me of Mr. Keating. I will mention one—Estela Gavosto. She was my phenomenal professor in my freshman year of Calculus III. I remember she would enter the class every morning (our class was Mo-Fr, 9am, sharp), talking so enthusiastically about how everything is going, where in the process, the fresh cup of coffee she has just brewed herself a moment ago in the faculty kitchen had already spilled all over the floor of the little, even, claustrophobic classroom we had in the basement area of the math department’s building. Those were, simpler times, indeed.

When she would teach us three-dimensional math, Professor Gavosto would bring in a loaf of pumpkin bread or different pasta noodles and start plotting them up in Cartesian, cylindrical, spherical, and all sorts of coordinates; using a variety of techniques—she showed us how it all relates and connects together, making the class more of an event to look forward too. She of course, was very hard on us—the material was one of the toughest out of all professors and years, yet, it flowed through and connected even with the laziest or least-interested students, who would somehow still, find such hard material pretty straightforward to grasp.

One of the liberties she granted me, well, two. But I’ll start with the first one—Professor Gavosto showed that math is all about having fun; all of those old and rigid traditions that we speak of, say, naming your variables \(a\) or \(b\) or \(\gamma\)—she would start writing down equations and formulas with variables like 🙂 or ❤️—it can be anything you want, as long as you get your idea across. This was such a liberation from the norms and standards we thought we had to follow for no reason known to us that immediately after finishing the semester, I declared a second major, pursuing Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics. Thanked her profusely ever since.

Yet again,

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.