Wisdom in Hamilton Lyrics
The musical Hamilton hit me at the right moment in my life. I found it in the most unusual way: the YouTube algorithms served up the Ham4Ham video of Lin-Manuel Miranda singing the cantina song he wrote for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In May 2016, I was definitely a Star Wars fan but I wasn’t yet a Hamilton fan.
My mother had died in January of that year and, because my husband had to travel out of town that weekend, I would be spending my first Mother’s Day without my mom alone with our daughter. And so, I spent Mother’s Day weekend in 2016 falling in love with the original Broadway cast recording of Hamilton.
Hamilton rightfully received critical praise, and earned a bucket of Tony Awards in 2016. It is a popular show, to be sure, but it holds special meaning for me personally. Now that the movie version has been released to Disney+, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite lyrics from the musical along with my own lessons and wisdom related to them. So, let’s throw on the cast recording and enjoy Hamilton, shall we??
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory. When’s it gonna get me? In my sleep? Seven feet ahead of me?
See, I never thought I’d live past twenty, Where I come from some get half as many. Ask anybody why we livin’ fast and we laugh, reach for a flask. We have to make this moment last, that’s plenty.My Shot
There’s a lot in My Shot to love but for me, the moment when the frenetic energy of the song pauses just a bit and Alexander tells us that he imagines death so much that it feels more like a memory hits home every time. I was twenty-nine years old when my brother died at age 37 and his death had a very real impact on how I approached life going into my thirties.
I found myself imagining and thinking about death much more often than before. This line captures the feelings and thoughts I’ve had since my brother died; I think about death more often but not in a macabre or depressing way. Instead, as Alexander touches on here, the experience of going through the death of my brother put a new and different sense of urgency in my own life. The very real possibility of an early death changed the way I live my day-to-day life.
You want a revolution? I want a revelation!The Schuyler Sisters
Even some of the shortest lines from Hamilton can pack a big message and this is one of them. Perhaps this is part of the wisdom that comes with age but these days I find that what I want most is mental and spiritual “revelation.” Getting new things or achieving goals is fine and all but what did I learn from it all? How did I grow mentally and emotionally through the experience? I don’t just want to “crush” my goals, I want to evolve and grow along the way. I don’t just want a revolution in my life, I want a revelation.
I am the one thing in life I can control!
I am inimitable, I am an original!Wait for It
As much as we might wish we had control over the circumstances of our lives, the truth is that we don’t. We can’t control what happens to us but we can control our response to it. Each one of us is unique, each one of us is an “original” and it’s up to us to decide how we will respond to the challenges life throws at us. No matter your situation, you are inimitable, you are an original – remember that.
Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints, it takes and it takes and it takes.
And we keep living anyway, we rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes…Wait for It
I’ve had to learn the hard way that death does not discriminate: even if you try to do everything “right,” that is no guarantee of a long life. Life is fragile and uncertain and yet still we keep living anyway, doing what we can to enjoy and make the most the time we do have. Life can be an amazing ride if you open yourself to it: you’ll rise and fall and yes you’ll make mistakes but that is all part of what it means to be alive fully to your experience.
Pride is not the word I’m looking for, there is so much more inside me now.Dear Theodosia
I always find it fascinating that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Dear Theodosia the week he adopted his dog, long before having his first child. The lyrics of this song truly capture the feelings I’ve had a parent of two kids. The word “pride” feels too small for the feelings I’ve had watching my newborn babies sleep. Pride is there, sure, but there is also hope and the sincere desire to do everything you can for this little life you created. Becoming a parent is a lot to take on! And yet… we do it anyway.
John Jay got sick after writing five, James Madison wrote twenty nine… Hamilton wrote the other 51!Non-Stop
I have a t-shirt that reads, simply: “Hamilton wrote the other 51.” That single sentence – especially the way Leslie Odom Jr performed it – has the ability to kick my butt into action any time I find myself feeling tired or lazy. Somehow, that simple fact: that Alexander Hamilton was motivated and driven enough to write 51 Federalist Papers in about six months inspires me to get back to my own writing any time my motivation starts to fade. If he could write 51 pamphlets in defense of the new constitution, surely I can get this blog published on Wednesday!
God help and forgive me, I wanna build something that’s gonna outlive me. What do you want Burr?
If you stand for nothing then what’ll you fall for?The Room Where it Happens
So much of the narrative force in Hamilton is built from the tension between Alexander’s approach of always going after what he wants with gusto and zeal versus Burr’s attempts to talk less, smile more and avoid taking any major risks or chances. This approach finally breaks for Burr during the song “The Room Where it Happens” after Burr sees Alexander work with his enemies, Jefferson and Madison, to further his own aims. I often find a similar tension within myself: a drive to do and achieve more while also hearing a voice inside telling me to “wait for it.”
In the end, for myself, I’ve come to realize that I, too, want to build something that’s going to outlive me. In order to do that, I’ve had to get clear on what I want and value. It can be so easy to feel pushed around by the world but “if you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?” Get clear on what you want for yourself and your life, no matter what others think or say about it. This is your life; others can help you but you’ll need to find your own way.
I wrote my way out of hell, I wrote my way to revolution, I was louder than the crack in the bell!Hurricane
I am a writer. Throughout my life I have explored many healing modalities and practices but one of the oldest and dearest to me is writing. Since childhood, I’ve written my way out of my struggles through poetry and journals.
Now – in the year 2020 – amid the global pandemic, I’ve committed to sharing my writing with the world through this blog and through the manuscript that I’m working on. For a long time, fear held me back. I was afraid to share my imperfect thoughts and reflections with the world only to see them be rejected. Like Burr, I thought it was better to share less in an attempt to stay safe.
I’ve come to see the importance of sharing my journey with others. We are all on our own path and our own journey. I’m hoping that sharing the lessons I’ve learned along the way will help others find their path. That’s what this blog is all about, that is why I write and publish each week.
Legacy. What is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to seeThe World Was Wide Enough
Let me tell you what I wished I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control: Who lives, who dies, who tells your storyWho Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
Each day, with each action we take and choice we make, we are building our story and our legacy.
What seeds are you planting that you may never get to see?
What is the story others will write about you some day?
May you be inspired to walk authentically through your life path.
Life may be short and you may not get to tell your story but those who love you will remember you for how you lived and loved.
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