We were fortunate to see Hamilton! a few weeks ago, which was everything it was cracked up to be. I’ve been obsessed with the music for a year or so, but was still surprised by just how timely the whole thing is when you see it come together, how complex even though popular, and how deep some lyrics run.
Like other great works, although the play is named for one central character, other characters come forth more strongly – as more raw, or their stories more heartbreaking – than does Hamilton himself. Sometimes we’re not sure we like Hamilton at all, and we think we dislike Burr, but his arc is not so simple. Lin Manuel Miranda is very generous with the music, giving others the best melodies.
One of the most poignant of the songs, One Last Time, is a conversation wherein Washington announces to a protesting Hamilton, that he is stepping down rather than running for another term of office. This seems an absurd move when there is much good to do, and such good opportunity right where he is. He’s probably even happy there! Yet the stately Washington makes the case for teaching the country how to say goodbye, for going on in a different way.
I’m terrible at goodbyes. Perhaps I’ve never seen one modeled well. I’ve always found it hard to be clear and just let go, inevitably leaving things half undone for a while, hoping they will make sense of themselves. It is ‘nicer’ in the moment, but not the most mature approach!
These days, people are more likely to ghost, letting others fill in their own narratives, but that doesn’t sit right with me either.
It can be especially hard when there’s no good enough reason, when it really is just a call, which is why I’ve been writing (then editing way down) a letter for the last few days. The meditation (and lots of other things) group I’ve been part of for ten years is full of people I still care for, and I still love the vision.
So it feels more like moving to another town than a break up.
This song *really* helped. Listening a dozen or so times, I heard Washington’s layers of reasons, and accepted that there may never be a good time to go, and I will never feel good about doing so. And that it is the right decision, for now. Of course, the scenario of the song is about the transfer of powers, which my situation is decidedly not, but the emotion he expresses is close. Once I’ve accomplished some things, too, I would like to return. Also unlike Washington, I’m not ready for retirement. 🙂
Much of the song is taken directly from Washington’s final address, and uses a variation of a line from the Bible I always thought was beautiful: “Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.“… (adding to it, not from the Bible:) “They’ll be safe in this nation we’ve made.”
There lingers love in him and a great vision he remains invested in.