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'Make Your Lives Extraordinary'

Last Friday for the second time in two years Warwick School was faced with the sudden unexpected loss of a much-loved member of our community. Dr Gill (Bill) was always fantastic company and the very best of colleagues, unfailingly positive, he made time for everyone.

Over the past seven days messages of condolence have flooded into school from pupils, parents and old boys.  They have shared a common theme; Bill was a remarkable teacher and more importantly human being, who made a positive impact on the many lives he touched. Remembering Bill and reading these messages has caused me to pause and reflect on what really matters. 

Reading one of many messages about how Bill had strived to know his pupils, understand them and use this to motivate and inspire them, my mind turned to the film Dead Poets Society.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film it stars Robin Williams as John Keating an English teacher who inspires his students at a fictional elite conservative boarding school in Vermont. 

The parallels between John Keating and Dr Gill are obvious.

But Bill’s passing has also caused me to reflect on the film’s key message, two ideas usually expressed in Latin: tempus fugit – ‘time flies’ and carpe diem – ‘seize the day’.

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentleman, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe. Hear it? Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

John Keating – Dead Poets Society

As a teacher on the eve of the next holiday I am reminded how easy it is to wish our lives away, always focusing on the next holiday or half term and our plans.

There’s only one problem with looking forward to something special: it encourages us to live our lives in the future and if we’re not careful we forget to enjoy the present.

The present – what the philosopher Paull Tillich called ‘the eternal now’ – is all we’ve got. Our lives are a lot richer when we try to appreciate what’s happening at this very moment in time.

Our lives our made up of tiny moments and each one is important. If we squander our hours, ruin days and throw away our weeks, our lives will be empty but if we see each hour as an opportunity, if we spend each day growing and if we use each week to move ahead, our lives will be full.

Dead Poets Society reminds us to seize each day and to cherish it dearly, because we can never stop the endless flow of time. In order to avoid missed chances or regrets later in life we must try to make our lives amazing and make the most of every moment.

Speaking to Bill, you were always aware that you were talking to a man who enjoyed life to the full, made the most of the moments and shared that lust for life with those he encountered.

Last week we were presented with a stark reminder of the impermanence of our own existence. We have a choice on how to respond to those events. I intend to honour Bill’s memory by trying to live as he lived and making the most of the tiny moments. Hopefully in trying to live as he lived, my life will be as full as his.