The Death Toll, By Comparison

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic.”

- Joseph Stallin


Most of us know that 3,000 people died on 9/11, but how many Americans know how many Katrina victims there were, or how many people died in the American Revolution. Did the Christian Crusades kill 100 times as many people as the Vietnam War? Or were they identical in their death tolls? Given how much we talk about historical human tragedies, it seems like something we should have a better handle on (via).

Tim Urban, from the popular website, waitbutwhy then goes on to show just how depict the numbers of people killed in hurricane Katrina, the Syrian War, and those killed in the Sichuan 2008 earthquake. He compares most all major wars, world wide car accidents per year, and The Black Death.

All in all, there are a lot of deaths.

And the numbers, when considering that they are people, that they are husbands, mothers, moms and dads, sons and daughters, that they are friends and neighbors and people who had names and lives, becomes so overwhelming that they are no longer relatable.

How can I even comprehend 200 million lives lost?

I can’t. But I can see J.F.K. riding in his car, his desperate wife holding his lifeless body, and I can hear his grainy voice as he addresses the nation.

Does that make me callous? Heartless?

Does that make Stalin right?

“We do a pretty good job of distracting ourselves from the whole ‘I’m gonna die one day’ thing” by distancing ourselves from the personal deaths - “That wouldn’t happen to me.” But we distance ourselves from the global, much closer to reality deaths (natural disasters, car accidents, etc) by seeing the casualties as numbers, not people.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff : Waitbutwhy

How creativity comes from the unexpected

Love this video.  

Its easy to get lost in the art and lose his words, but listen carefully. His process of creating is inspiring, and encouraging.  

“I had no idea what this animation would be when I started, and that’s really my big tip. If you’re ever feeling stuck or blank creatively, take a step into the unknown and start doing something . . . until it starts your interest or sparks an idea, and then build on that.”

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  : Inspiration  : Art

5 Months Swimming, 4 World Records

Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda

Recently a 33-year-old swimmer and fitness expert, Ross Edgley, returned from an epic 1,780-mile (2,800 km) journey. Ross spent 5 months at sea and is believed to be the first person to swim around the island of Great Britain.

Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda

The fact that this deed was perceived as impossible inspired Ross to be one to accomplish it. “I’ve always been fascinated by British explorers and it was Captain Matthew Webb [first person the swim the English Channel], who really inspired me.

Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda

During this victorious swim, Ross broke 4 world records. The records include – the first person to swim the entire South Coast of the UK, the longest ever staged sea swim, the fastest person on the planet to swim from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and the first person to swim around Great Britain.

Image from Bored Panda

Image from Bored Panda

“The biggest challenge now is learning to walk again! My biggest fear when I was coming out of the water and back onto the beach was that I was going to fall over. As I’ve not stepped foot on land for over five months, the tendons and ligaments in my feet have been asleep, so I basically have to learn to walk again. But in terms of bigger thinking, and I know this will sound weird, but I’m still not bored of swimming. A few big swims have been mentioned and this is probably the most ‘swim-fit’ I’ll ever be, so who knows?”

For the complete story and more pictures, visit Bored Panda.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Real People : Inspiration

Mass Shootings : We are Responsible.

Photo by @davideragusa

Photo by @davideragusa

It happened again. This time, in Thousand Oaks, California. You and I both know how the days and weeks to come will play go.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to . . .” we will hear whispered from podiums, while “Enough is enough” banners are posted on websites, blogs, and social media. And for a brief, brief moment, the country will be unified in grief, shock, and horror of what our country has become. Then someone will point the finger of blame. Then another. Then another. Until everyone is pointing, shouting, and condemning, calling for reform, calling for justice, and demanding someone does something to stop this madness.

All the while, someone somewhere will have made a plan, written a note, or posted a video. Right under our tear-stained cheeks and upturned noses. Just like they did in Columbine, almost 20 years ago.

“Eric Harris was a psychopath,” David Cullen concludes in his New York Times bestseller, Columbine, “he was a narcissist, he was a sadists. He wasn’t out to bully bullies, he was out to hurt the people he looked down upon . . . humans.” He wanted to destroy everyone, all of us. Yet fortunately, he only made it to thirteen. He had planned for many more.

According to the investigation that followed Columbine, Eric Harris wanted to go down as a legend. He wanted to make a mark bigger than the Oklahoma City bombings and he wanted to be remembered forever. So he planted bombs in the park on the other side of town, set to go off as a diversion for the cops. Luckily, they didn’t. Neither did the propane tanks in the cafeteria (which would have killed hundreds) nor the bombs in his and Dylan’s cars (which were set to detonate after the police and paramedics arrived, killing them too). In fact, Eric and Dylan never intended to enter the school. Their plan was to wait outside and pick off the surviving few as they fled the carnage of Columbine.

But things didn’t go according to Eric’s plan, hardly anything in fact, except for one seemingly minor detail: the media was there, and they granted Eric Harris his deepest dying wish. He became famous.

Dave Cullen, an author and elite journalist, was “one of the first reporters on the scene” at Columbine. He then spent the next ten years writing Columbine, which is “widely recognized as the definitive account” of the school’s massacre, and for many of the 300-plus pages of his heart-wrenching book, Cullen spends a great deal of time talking about who Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were, what happened in the days prior, during, and after the infamous shooting, and how people from across the country responded.

But that’s not why he wrote the book. He wrote it because he was trying to figure out why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did it. Once answered, he concludes his book with the most important takeaway of his journey: how to prevent this from ever happening again, and who is responsible.

His findings are not extenuating.

Dave Cullen’s conclusion of who is responsible for Columbine and every shooting and massacre is not a familiar one, nor is it a popular, but it is the most accurate and reliable one.

The answer of who is responsible, according to Cullen, is us. We are responsible. Malcolm Gladwell says the same, but where Gladwell fails to provide a solution, Cullen does. It is us. We are the solution.

Let me explain. Or rather, let Cullen explain.

Almost 100% of the time, the perpetrator of mass killings is male, and “{f}or his glorious week,” Cullen explains, “the spectacle killer is the hottest star on earth. He dwarfs any sports champ, movie star, president, or pope . . . They spill a little blood, {and} the whole world knows who they are . . . His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”

So, “If you’re planning a spectacle murder,” Dave Cullen once told a CNN anchor, “here’s what you do:

{There are} two routes to the elite club with the star treatment: body count, or creativity. Choose body count, and you’ve got to break the top ten. The media loves scorekeeping and will herald your achievements with a banner beneath the victims as they grieve. For creatives, go for originality and horror . . . Maximize the savage nature. Make us fear movies theaters, or churches or {school} - and a Joker costume at a Batman movie takes theatrics literally. Live TV was a great twist - only took two victims in Roanoke to get the big-star treatment. Surprise us.

The anchor was justifiably horrified, but that was the point. “These are the tactics the killers have turned on us so callously,” Cullen writes, “They cracked the media code. Easily.” And if the media care about ending this, “we in the media need to see our role as clearly as the perps have. We did not start this, nor have we pulled any triggers. But the killers have made us reliable partners. We supply the audience, they provide the show” (pg 380).

In these few short paragraphs, Cullen models the role we all need to take after events such as these occur: point the finger at ourselves, find where we are responsible, and take ownership of it. Just like Andy Dufresne.

Like everyone else, my favorite scene in Shawshank Redemption is the one where Andy Dufresne emerges from the septic tanking, raises his hands to the air, and is finally free from the deathly Shawshank prison. But it wasn’t until I read those lines from Cullen that I understood why I love that scene, and how Andy Dufresne was able to get there.

Throughout the first half of the movie, the audience is left in the dark as to Andy’s involvement with his wife’s murder. There’s that scene in the beginning, of him stumbling from his car, drunk, and carrying a gun, but nothing more. He adamantly denies killing his wife, but we are never fully convinced of his innocence. Till we hear the story of Elmo Blatch, an old cellmate of Tommy’s, and then our suspicions are confirmed, Andy Dufresne is completely innocent and absolved from the murder of his wife. Somehow, though, that isn’t enough. The movie isn’t entitled Shawshank Absolvement, it is Shawshank Redemption, and Andy is not yet redeemed. That comes later, after Tommy has been killed and Andy beaten, placed into solitude for calling the warden “obtuse”, and at the brink of ruin. And like Cullen, as he comes to grip with the harsh reality of what has happened and who is to blame, his hammer of judgement falls to no one else but himself.

“I killed her Red,” Andy he says with a dull sincerity to Morgan Freeman as they sit in the yard, leaning against the giant stone wall, locked in Shawshank Redemption. “I didn’t pull the trigger but I drove her away. And that’s why she died, because of me.”

Red leans down and sits on his heals, “That doesn’t make you a murderer,” he counters, and he’s right. But so is Andy. He didn’t pull the trigger, but he did play a part. A small part perhaps, or at the very least a forgivable part (no on goes to prison for being a bad husband), but a part none the less. And once Andy is finally able to see that, he is able to admit it. And once he admits it, Shawshank could no longer contain him. He is free.

A few scenes later, he climbs into a sewage pipe and crawls to redemption.

“We did not start this, nor have we pulled any triggers”, Cullen admits, echoing Red’s “That doesn’t make you a murderer.” But Cullen, like Andy, isn’t content with being absolved. He wants freedom. Freedom from a grey and deathly prison, freedom from guilt and shame, and freedom from fear that this will indeed happen again. So he accepts his portion of the blame, “we supply the audience, they provide the show.” He acknowledges his responsibility and admits his complicit role. Then, like Andy Dufresne, he climbs into the sewage pipe and beckons us to do the same.

We, on the other hand, continue to sit in horror and amazement, waiting for someone to unlock the cell.

“For the past few years,” Jason Kottke writes, “whenever a mass shooting occurs in the US that gets wide press coverage, the satirical news site The Onion runs an article with this headline written by Jason Roeder: ‘“No Way To Prevent This,”’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens’.”

After each mass shooting, our nation raises its hands in grief and disbelief, “How does this keep happening?” Then, because there is never a clear answer, we quickly defend ourselves, our beliefs, and our rights, leaving many people absolved, very few freed, and even fewer redeemed.

There are two definitions offered for redeemed:

  1. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

  2. the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.

Both require an admittance. Both require action. Neither point to someone or something else.

I, like the rest of our country, desperately long for these headlines to be eradicated from our headlines. I’ve also been convicted by Cullen and Andy and believe that casting the blame onto others will only perpetuate the acts. But because I’m not a journalist, I cannot rest with Cullen’s admittance. I must find my own, as an educator.

So far, I’ve come up with three.


“Education is inherently selfish” I found myself saying to a room full of educators, “we spend so much time and effort convincing kids to pursue school and grades so they can better themselves and their future” I said, “we encourage them to follow their dreams and be whatever they want to be, but for what purpose?” I found myself trying not to look at a particular school that has geared their entire program around personalized learning and a system that focuses on each kid as an individual, that teaches each kid to learn at their own pace, in their own way, completely isolated from their peers.

Why school? Why do kids have to go? And why do they have to take the classes that they do? A school I once taught for attempted to answer that question with a giant poster that hung in the hallway for each student and teacher to read. “Do it for you,” and it bothered me every single day.

Is that why kids need to be in school? So that they can go to college, get a nice job, and buy nice things? Or is it so that they can collect experiences and enjoy life? So they can learn how to “Follow their heart”? If so, no wonder they’re miserable.

After they’ve pursued every relationship, dating the hottest boy or girl they can find, after they’ve driven the coolest car, bought the the newest technology, and worn the nicest clothes, what next? After sex, popularity, success, and whatever else their hearts desire. what happens when they’re still miserable, empty, and without direction?

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says, “When the product motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen” (via). The purpose of education, as is written and expressed today, has become unmoored from the deeper more existential purpose: to discover our gifts and talents, to hone them, and then figure out ways to give them away. To serve others.

And for that, I am responsible.


Teachers and coaches (perhaps even parents), my friend Glen Walenda once theorized on one of my recent blog posts, “often treat {children} as future people instead of people. We are so blinded by their potential we don't see them in the present.” In doing so, we concentrate on the superficial, the tangible, and the quantifiable measurements that will help them succeed (whatever that means) later on in life, when they’re future people.

Because that’s what how we know we are doing a “good job,” when our students are scoring well and paying attention in class. It’s also how we’re failing.

The best comedy, according to George Carlin, is a process of digging through the layers of humanity. Instead of simple jokes, the best comedians spend their time talking about feelings and who we are, our loves and likes, our fears and nightmares, and the stuff that makes us, us. That makes them, them. The human being stuff. The stuff that no standardized test or classroom assessment can ever measure.

Curriculum, teaching strategies, and assessments are important and necessary to gauge learning, but how to live life, how to work through struggles and celebrate victories, how to engage humanity and find our purpose in life, these are what we stay alive for. These are why we learn. But because we cannot measure them, no funding is attached to them, and because it is easier to grade knowledge rather than character, education focuses on GPAs rather than character, compliance rather than curiosity; it focuses on the future people rather than the now people.

For that, I am responsible.


 The most “influential and inspiring people,” according to John Dickson, “are often marked by humility” which is “the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself” (pg 24). Fred Rogers would agree. “The real issue in life,” Fred Rogers believed, “is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away” (via).

Schools, however, don’t often teach students to give their resources and blessings away. Instead, we focus on individualized learning, valedictorians, and high GPA’s. We focus on counting our blessings and building resumes.

We buy letterman jackets, award honor rolls, and crown kings and queens.

People of character, however, focus on how they can best give away their gifts and resources rather than hoarding them. They care more about their classmates, their community, and whoever else might be in need. They rarely focus on their own.

They care more about living in harmony than they do standing in the spotlight.

“Harmony,” the poet, theologian, and philosopher John O’Donohue states, is everything uniquely itself, “and by being uniquely itself, part of a greater community” (via). Sadly, I have not taught that enough in my classes.

I have focused on the uniqueness of the individual, but not on how their uniqueness fits into the great narrative. I have focused on their gifts, their talents, and dreams they want fulfilled, but I have not taught them well enough the responsibility of those gifts, and the joys of giving them to others. I have focused too much time on developing their resume virtues, not their eulogy virtues.

I didn’t pull the trigger on any mass shootings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t play a part or that I’m unable to prevent the next one. Because I’m an educator, I’m responsible for building and guiding a culture. And so far, I haven’t done the best of job.

For that, I am responsible.

Andy Dufresne crawled through “five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness, {we} can’t even imagine.” Dave Cullen did the same. For ten years. Then, like Andy, he emerged, clean and redeemed on the other side.

Like Andy and Cullen, we didn’t pull the trigger. But we have pushed each other away for the sake of ourselves. And that’s why we die.

If we, as a country, truly do believe enough is enough, that “No one should ever have to go through this. Period”, and that, names of victims on the back of shirts just isn’t enough, then we too must be willing to endure the worst we can imagine and take whatever responsibility we can upon ourselves and change. We must choose another rather than ourselves, our freedoms, and our rights.

If we can do that. Then, maybe, just maybe we too can emerge from this shit-smelling foulness that isn’t hard to imagine. And when we do, like Andy and Cullen, we too can be free, and clean on the other side.

We can find redemption.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Education  :  Chapters to my book

Caroline : a short film about love, misunderstood.

Urban Kids.jpeg

A few years ago, my wife and oldest son left me and my two youngest at the time home for 265 hours. I had a stable job, was on vacation from school, and help from various friends. My wife was coming home soon.

When she finally did make it back, I was sitting on the balcony of our 7th floor apartment, trying to process the time. Here’s a piece of what I wrote:

If you know {a single parent}, show ‘em some love. Make them dinner, wash their dishes, or babysit their kids. At the very least, by their coffee because I promise, they drink more than you. A beer wouldn’t hurt either:)

If you are one, you’re my hero. (via).

This film has all the same feels. Only worse.

This film is terrifyingly brilliant. I literally feel the heat, the fear, and the panic in the little car, and I cannot help but ache for everyone involved.

The mother loves her kids, no doubt. But she’s stuck. No babysitter, no grace from work, and three little kids who need their mother to work, pay the bills, and rush them to the bathroom.

The spectators want to care for the kids. Because they’re good and decent people. Yet, they don’t see the whole and perfect picture.

The child loves her mother.

And everything is absolutely not okay.


How many situations like the above could be avoided if we all acknowledged the single parents around us and gave them an extra helping hand? How many children would be saved in the process?

If you know a single parent, show them some love. Make them dinner, wash their dishes, or babysit their kids. At the very least, by their coffee because I promise, they drink more than you. A beer wouldn’t hurt either:)

If you are one, you’re my hero. Sincerely.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Short FilmsOn Parenting : Single Parents

The film Caroline is produced by ELO films, a “co-writer / director duo Celine Held & Logan George. Their work as a team has premiered in competition at Cannes Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and at South by Southwest. They were named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’ of 2017” (via).

You can see more of their work here.

World Air Traffic

This is pretty mesmerizing.

And if you play it with The Plague Soundtrack in the background, it gets even better.

The yellow dots are aircraft.

It is a 24 hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world, condensed down to about 2 minutes. You can tell it was summer time in the north by the sun's footprint over the planet. You could see that it didn't quite set in the extreme north and it didn't quite rise in the extreme south.

Notice that as evening approaches, the traffic is predominantly from the US to Europe and when daylight comes, the traffic switches and it is predominantly from Europe to the US (via).

I’ve watched for a little while, to see if a yellow dot suddenly disappeared, but never did see one.

Why Mr. Keeting is Responsible for Neil's Death

First, press play.

Mr. Keating has inspired teachers for generations, and probably always will. Whether it be his embodiment of Carpe Diem, standing on his desk to help his students "see things from a different point of view," or having his students march in court yards to stress the dangers of conformity, Mr. Keating was a master at inspiring minds and challenging the status quo. His boys learned to “think for {themselves} again, to suck the marrow out of life, and to express their own unique voice. Mr. Keating was a powerful leader, and one worth emulating. However, he is also the quintessential example of just how dangerous our words and ideas can be.

The opening scenes of Dead Poets Society are crucial to understanding the purpose and the pitfall of Mr. Keating. We are introduced to Welton Academy, one of the best preparatory schools in the United States, by witnessing the first day of school: the light of knowledge, Weltons’ four pillars (Tradition, Honor, Discipline, and Excellence), and the sense of overbearing and high-achieving parents. Especially for two of the main characters and roommates, Todd Anderson and Neil Perry. 

Todd is following in the footsteps of his older brother, the valedictorian and merit scholar, while Neil, an only child, is trying to live up to his parent’s expectations of becoming a doctor. Throughout the movie, these two boys wrestle with their relationships with their parents, Todd dealing with his parent’s absence (sending him the same desk set for the second year in a row), and Neil with his father’s overbearing presence (forcing Todd to quit the school annual because he has “decided {Neil} is taking too many extracurriculars”). They are the same different of one another. 

Then comes Keating.  

Mr. Keating also “survived Welton” and is therefore all too familiar with the difficulties and dangers of its restraints. So instead of adapting to its continued and current culture, he challenges Welton, its traditions, and its purpose, and the boys suck it up completely. For them, a starving group of young boys who are eager to live life independently and to the fullest, Mr. Keating’s words and ideas are the marrow of life. Which is often the hope and desire of every aspiring leader. 

Mr. Keating knows his audience. He knows their culture, what they need, and where he wants them to go. In this, Mr. Keating is a good leader. But he also has the personality and ability to get his eager yet often shy followers to go where he needs them to go. He encourages the boys to bring back the Dead Poets Society, inspires Knox Overstreet to woo and win over Chris Noel, and, in one of the most iconic scenes from the move, he breaks Todd Anderson from his restrictive shell. Mr. Keating does this because he, after weeks and weeks of teaching and investing, has earned the boys’ trust as a friend, as an educator, and as a philosopher. In this, Mr. Keating is a great leader, and so his influence and impact continue to grow. 

At the beginning, in one of his first classes, Mr. Keating has his boys rip out the introduction of their textbook, Understanding Poetry. “Be gone Mr. J. Evan Pritchard!” he yells, encouraging them to break through the bonds that bind their minds and actions, “I want nothing left of it.” Then, as he retreats to his office to grab a trash bin, the Latin teacher, Mr. McCallister, happens to walk by, misinterpret the chaos, and barges in. When Mr. Keating returns, they engage briefly, then depart. Later, at lunch, they discuss the minds of young men and the purpose of education. Shortly after, and throughout the movie, the two become friends, talking over tea and engaging in slight moments of friendship. Near the end, Mr. McCallister is seen waving goodbye from the window, an indication that he will miss his friend and, although not always in agreement, has grown to respect Mr. Keating and his views. A mark of any good leader.  

Mr. Keating also shows the breadth and depth of his influence over the boys when he rebukes Charlie Dalton for his “lame stunt” he pulled with the telephone call that had God calling, asking Welton to allow girls into the school. “I thought you’d like that,” Charlie argues, confused at Keating’s rebuke, “"There's a time for daring and there's a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for." Charlie not only hears these words, he understands and applies them. As Mr. Keating leaves, Charlie puts away his drum and stops telling his story, because he knows it no longer matters. Living life of passion does not mean “chocking on the bone.” In this, Mr. Keating, yet again, demonstrates his leadership in that he not only inspires, he corrects and directs. He isn’t afraid to rebuke his boys, and instead of hammering them for their mistakes, he uses their mistakes for teachable moments, which only builds and strengths the bond of trust between him and them.  

Then, at the height of his teaching, when the boys seem to be soaring, when Neil is staring in the play, when Knox has finally won over his girl, and after Todd has inspired every English teacher and want-to-be-poet with his sudden recital of “The Sweaty-toothed Madman,” all hell breaks loose. Neil is suddenly whisked away by his father who spits at Keating, “You stay away from my son.” Soon after, Todd is shaken awake in the middle of the night and told through soft whispers, “Neil’s dead”, and Mr. Keating is to blame. 

“You guys didn’t really think he could avoid responsibility, did you?” Cameron says to the boys while they hide in the attic storage.” 

“Mr. Keating responsible for Neil, is that what they’re saying?” Charlie asks. 

“Who else do you think, dumbass?” Cameron shouts, “Mr. Keating put us up to all this crap, didn’t he?” And Todd won’t stand it. 

“That is not true, Cameron, and you know that,” he says, holding back tears, “He didn’t put us up to anything, Neil loved acting!” 

“Believe what you want,” Cameron shoots back, “But I say, let Keating fry.” 

This scene is crucial, for two reasons. One, the choice of characters and the words they use are extremely critical. Cameron has always been portrayed as the one not fully immersed in the teachings and ideas of Keating, so it isn’t a surprise that he sides with the administration. It also is not surprising that he does so with such cruelty, because there needs to be a quick and clean separation. “Let Keating fry,” is heartless and calculated, but it also creates in us, the viewers, a sense of “Us vs Them”, and there’s no way we are them – those who blame Keating for Neil’s death. We are part of the Dead Poets, those who believe in Keating, his teachings, and Carpe Diem, and we believe he is innocent! 

Great leaders, however, do not have the luxury of passing responsibility. Great leaders, at all times, must evaluate the actions and reactions of those they care for and ask, “What role did I play? Where am I responsible?” For Keating, he needs to look no further than his classroom. 

In the most watched and adored scene of the movie, Mr. Keating brings Todd Anderson up to the front of the classroom and helps him create poetry, and it’s magical.  

Todd is terrified, believing “everything inside of him is worthless, and embarrassing,” and therefore refuses to write a poem or speak in front of the class. But Mr. Keating, being the great leader that he is, refuses to let him sit comfortably in his shell. “I think you’re wrong,” he argues, “I think there is something inside of you that is worth a great deal.” Shortly after, he pulls Todd to the front of the class and asks him look at Walt Whitman and describe what you see, "Don't think, answer, go!" Mr. Keating says, "free up your mind, use your imagination, say whatever comes to mind, even if it's total gibberish." And out comes one of the most quoted poems about Walt Whitman ever uttered. 

However, what Mr. Keating fails to supply is context and an anchor for such behavior because, applying that same technique, that same way of thinking and living to other emotions in a very different scenario results in the death of Neil Perry. 

In the final scene of the movie, right before the students climb on their desks, the headmaster is teaching the class. He asks what they've been reading, and Cameron responds with, "Mostly the Romantics."  

"What about the Realists?" the headmaster asks? 

"We skipped over that part," Cameron responds. 

Mr. Keating knows his boys need a break from tradition, that they need to be free thinkers, but what he fails to understand is that he was a graduate of Welton Academy where he was encouraged/required to wrestle with and learn from a variety of minds and ideas, not just the romantics. Mr. Keating had a well-rounded perspective of life and living. However, with his boys, he provided very little balance. He didn’t have them think for themselves, evaluating which philosophies of life were more appropriate, and why. Instead, he only focused on the Romantics, and this, for young and influential minds who are used to strict structure, oppression and tradition, was extremely careless. 

Mr. Keating didn’t kill Neil Perry. Nor is he solely responsible for Neil’s death. He did, however, fail to grasp his influence upon his boys and properly assess their needs and struggles. The boys needed a break from tradition and the ability to think for themselves, just as Mr. Keating believed, but they also needed structure and balance to their rapidly changing hormones and emotions. They needed the freedom to feel and express their emotions, but they also needed to know how to evaluate them, to balance them, and to check them against other, much less ambiguous and fluctuating truths such as principles and ethics. They needed to be taught how to evaluate their emotions, not just embrace them.

In many respects, Mr. Keating was a great leader. He inspired his boys and, for the most part, brought out the best in them. However, he was incomplete. “Don’t think, just answer,” he taught them. But outside confines and safety of his classroom, this way of thinking lead to death.  

Mr. Keating doesn’t deserve to fry, as Cameron suggests, but he does deserve a healthy dose of responsibility for the role he played. “In my class, you will learn to savor words and language,” Mr. Keating encourages his boys, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” However, placed in the minds of young men who are unable to grasp their severity and consequence, who cannot align and judge them to strict and grounded principles and ethical standards, those words and ideas can also destroy.  

And for that, Mr. Keating is responsible.  


What Muslims Are Teaching Us About Humanity

Image from

Image from

Chimamanda Adichie said it best, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

“The consequence of the single story is this” Adichie continues, {{i}t robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue was set up to help “support the shooting victims with short-term needs (Funeral Expenses, Medical Bills, Etc)” and, to date, it has raised over $230,000 “to help victims and their families following the shooting massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday.”

To create a single story, “show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” Even when that is not exactly who they are.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  :  Beware! The Muslims are Coming!

Only the Wild Ones," by Dispatch

This, from a friend: “I've been enjoying this song for the last year or so, but came across the video for the first time last night. I cried as I watched it with my kids. Thought you might enjoy.”

Long hair and longer stride
Skateboard fair with a primal tribe
And your cut off painter pants
Chargin' down the craggy mountains with our thrift store friends

And who you find so
So in love with the falling earth
Oh you wake in the middle of the falling night
With the summer playing coy

In the attics of the city night
We talked corso and the MC5
And you could dance live
We were all alright

And only the wild ones
Give you something and never want it back
Oh the riot and the rush of the warm night air
Only the wild ones
Are the ones you can never catch
Stars are up now no place to go, but everywhere

One I met in the green mountain state
I dropped out, and he moved away
Heard he got some land down south
Changed his name to a name the birds could pronounce

And only the wild ones
Give you something and never want it back
Oh the riot and the rush of the warm night air
Only the wild ones
Are the ones you can never catch
Stars are up now no place to go but everywhere
(No place to go but everywhere)

And in the city the mayor said
Those who dance are all mislead
So you packed your things and moved to the other coast
Said you gonna be like Charlie Rose

And only the wild ones
Give you something and never want it back
Oh the riot and the rush of the warm night air
Only the wild ones
Are the ones you can never catch
Stars are up now no place to go, but everywhere

Only the wild ones, give you something and never want it back
Oh the riot and rush of the warm night air
Only the wild ones
Are the ones you can never catch
Stars are up now no place to go, but anywhere
Hmm, hmm hmm
Hmm, hmm hmm
Hmm, hmm hmm