Don’t believe that you can truly understand more than one thing at a time. Not 100 percent if you are multitasking. Not even mothers will have 100 percent understanding as they deal with work, commute, screaming child, sick child, obnoxious child who learned how to blow chocolate milk through his nose. No, each of those things can balance the others, some outbalance the others, but you can’t experience the whole picture. If most cases, you don’t want that whole picture. But then there are musical performances, books of a pure truth, insights that leave you momentarily undone. So it is with Hamilton.
It’s the sound, the pulse that bleeds into your awareness. Music is the novel of passion, played upon a stage that requires your ‘mind’, body and soul. Great operas ripped the tears from the ones who got it. Madam Butterfly, The Telephone, Bernstein’s Mass, 1776, Westside Story, these will catch you and leave you breathless feeling that you have felt or learned something great. They are stories. Novels.
With greatness that we miss in our busy days filled with office, school, ball games, little league, ballet lessons, commutes, and tae Kwon do, because we don’t pause to see. Great novels make the soul weep. Flowers for Algernon, the first time I read it out loud to students ripped into my consciousness and left me crumpled in front of fifth graders. When the principal walked in on the weeping, he backed out and never said a word. The Reprieved Reformation about a safe cracker who found a reason to change, to lose his greed and save his humanity. AS I Stand Here Ironing, a look at a mother, whose daughter once again is in trouble. Whose teacher wants the parent conference (hear the drumroll of fate calling), but who is HER daughter, HER creation.
Hamilton, a poor boy, orphaned, witness to plagues and treasuries, a man hated and reviled, clung to by women and worshipped, a man against odds, the man who created the treasury, and a duel. It plays like a Shakespearean Novel on the top 20 list of the BOTM (book of the month) club. And it’s the presentation.
I performed in Bernstein’s Mass (what does a Jewish composer know of Catholicism?) where the priest who loses his faith, his congregation and his soul was portrayed as a young priest starting out and the disillusionment, the delusionment, the despair he felt that tore him to shreds balanced on notes that are harmonic in their disharmony. It tore us as performers apart, it silenced the audience and they left quietly, thinking. I saw it at the Kennedy Center the same way. It was beautiful and framed perfectly. I saw it at Lord Albert’s Hall where the priest was portrayed as a pedipiile and that WAS WRONG. It made me sick to watch or listen to it. The tenor changed the entire message. He was a tenor. Really. A European, a German tenor with a skeptical look at any chance of purity in the Church. A tenor who thought that Bernstein was mocking the church. No really, a German tenor trying to understand a jewish composer’s view of the catholic church as the congregation took and used…never mind, it just didn’t feel like what I had performed and seen performed. Granted I am from the upper MidWest where even the atheists have a feeling of respect for some concepts of church and community, except for pedipiiles.
That’s what we are trying to do, isn’t it? Trying to effect our readers and public with our vision of the world at that instant. Music takes the instants and compounds the eyes with ears, the blood with pulse, the soul with wonder, fear or hatred. I should have put my two careers together before this, the narration of exploring a saga by pace made so much clearer to me now.
I’m an intellectual, know as a nerd in this time and place, and I am attempting to write the great novel of my time. Arrogance in the least application. No, not arrogance. I want to be a writer to leave a footprint that I understood something beyond what I am now. I want to be for the future to seek guidance from and to turn that which is bloody and awful to a tale told by a fool about the purity of man.
It’s the sound, the pulse, the overwhelming focus on one incredible thing at a time. It’s a message that must speak of itself. It’s the dark calling to the nightmares, setting them into patterns. It’s why children put their noses under the covers while their eyes search the shadows.
Then the man from Hamilton speaks of his upbringing in Puerto Rico, an American territory. He tells of the tragedy of poverty, of exploitation by hedge funds who now attempt to topple the people by placing demands for payment against a government not allowed to file for bankruptcy. He speaks in the language of the musical Hamilton. He appears on shows including John Oliver’s. We know John Oliver as a man of intelligence and integrity who has a campaign against cigarettes internationally with Dave, a diseased lung. We know him as the exposer of lies and corruption. That he sides with Hamilton in his pursuit for justice for his home gives it credence.
The sound of children crying from hunger, orphans, health care costing twice for the same system we have on the mainland. They became a territory as a result of war. They have an honor roll of US Veterans of War and believe in the US as part of their nation. They still see the our hope as theirs. So we walk away and leave them adrift in a world of greed where teachers can’t teach because there is no money.
Hamilton. Novels, Operas, Comedies, Lies, Justice, Defeat. Ultimately, in order to understand life, you have to stop and focus on just that. You have to let go of what you think and what you feel without the experience and open your heart to the message. Hamilton has a focus for today. It’s powerful. I hope to write a novel with that kind of power of exposure someday.