Lifelet: Your Verse Anthem

It takes a lot for a TV ad in the middle of an NFL game to cause me to pay attention. This afternoon Apple managed to wake me out of my inattention with one of the most moving vignettes I’ve encountered. The ad was for the iPad air and had stunning imagery of many of the ways the iPad is used in nature, business, science, education, and music.

The ad started with jump cuts of a range of video and some low key music and then this intense voice joined in with the moving images:

“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.

To quote from Whitman,

“O me, O life of the questions of these recurring.
Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

“What will your verse be?”

Take a moment to enjoy a well crafted inspiring ad:

What will your verse be?

As I searched Google in hopes that somebody had uploaded the ad and had a transcript, I came across several context articles.  The article shared that the transcript came from Robin Williams Dead Poets Society movie. Fortunately, some kind soul has uploaded the scene from the movie where Mr. Keating shares Walt Whitman’s speech:

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

What will your verse be?”

Now that is an inspiring wake up call.

The synchronicity of this call to action arrived after a week long intensive developmental seminar where we experienced an exercise based on Mary Pipher’s “I am from …” poem. The exercise is taken from her book Writing to Change the World.

Mary’s “I am from …” poem is:

I Am From  

I am from Avis and Frank, Agnes and Fred, Glessie May and Mark.

From the Ozark Mountains and the high plains of eastern Colorado, from mountain snowmelt and southern creeks with water moccasins.

I am from oatmeal eaters, gizzard eaters, haggis and raccoon eaters.

I am from craziness, darkness, sensuality, and humor.

From intense do-gooders struggling through ranch winters in the 1920s.

I am from “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything,” and “Pretty is as pretty does” and “Shitmuckelty brown” and “Damn it all to hell.”

I am from no-dancing-or-drinking Methodists, but cards were okay except on Sunday, and from tent-meeting Holy Rollers, from farmers, soldiers, bootleggers, and teachers.

I am from Schwinn girl’s bike, 1950 Mercury two-door, and West Side Story.

From coyotes, baby field mice, chlorinous swimming pools, Milky Way and harvest moon over Nebraska cornfields.

I am from muddy Platte and Republican, from cottonwood and mulberry, tumbleweed and switchgrass, from Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, and Janis Joplin.

My own sweet dance unfolding against a cast of women in aprons and barefoot men in overalls.

Our exercise was to do a free write in the form of “I am from …” writing as fast as we could for seven minutes.

Mary’s instructions are:

“Follow a formula with each line beginning with “I am from.” Writing this kind of poem is a way to experiment with identity issues. The poem must include references to food, places, and religion. You might want to give it a try.”

My free writing variant of the “I am from …” poem is:

I am from ….

I am from Marge and Harry, Leigh and Pearl, Grace and Edward

I am from the empire state, the rust belt, the old south, live free or die, and the other Washington,

I am from a dog’s breakfast of European ancestry

I am from loving parents who agreed to argue with each other in whispers

I am from a family where my much younger sister has never known me without my bride Jamie

I am from a farm community where planting cabbage skips and picking black cherries was a summer adventure

I am from an age when I could ride my bicycle all over western New York and my parents never had to worry about the crazies

I am from a travelling salesman father by day and an unschooled medical device inventor by night

I am from a stay at home mom who grew up very rich and whose father lost it all in the great depression

I am from the gift of fifty years of knowing and marrying my childhood sweetheart

I am a non-smoker from a Southern University funded by tobacco fortunes

I am from our deep family rivalry of Blue Devils and Tar Heels

I am from the too much travel of a corporate executive who missed so much of being a dad for three great children – Elizabeth, Maggie and John

I am from the gift of two infant granddaughters and their loving parents who allow me to re-experience what I missed as a travelling dad

I am from constant personal generated challenges like learning to fly, Outward Bound and becoming a university faculty member without an advanced degree

I am from the invisible university of Ackoff, Goldratt, Christensen, and Alexander

I am from the highest highs and lowest lows of serial entrepreneuring

I am from the gift of fantastic collaborating colleagues who have given me more than I can ever repay

I am from the solitary meditations of hiking Olympic mountain trails

I am from the poetry of mudlucious ee Cummings and the melodious voice of corporate poet David Whyte

I am from the formation of thousands of books

I am from the biodynamics of fine wine growing

I am from the spiritual traditions of a childhood full of Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians and a chosen Catholic adult faith

I am from an unhealthy gene pool of parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who died at early ages

I am from the gifts of perpetual inquiry and an explorer of the world

I am Skip!

Indeed, what is my verse to add to the unfolding poem of life.

What will you do this day to add your verse to mine?

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