Passion Post #3: Rise Up or Fall Down
I recently viewed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s melodic masterpiece, Hamilton, and I must say that I was blown away. I remember when this musical first came out in 2016. I kept hearing my peers recite their favorite lyrics, gush over all the hip hop references, and search the Internet for discounts on ticket prices (I also tried to enter the ticket lotteries and still came up short). I must admit that I was a late arrival on the Hamilton bandwagon. I didn’t appreciate Miranda’s genius production until my sophomore year of college.
I recall the moment when I heard the full soundtrack for the first time. I was writing a final paper for my American Political Thought and Practice class. I thought that the Hamilton soundtrack provided the perfect background music for the occasion. It definitely made the paper writing process more enjoyable.
I remember my excitement (and attempt to rap along) when I heard “My Shot.” I remember the tears that formed in my eyes when I heard “Burn,” “It’s Quiet Uptown,” and “Blow Us All Away.” I will never forget how hard I laughed when I heard the Cabinet rap battles and “Washington On Your Side.”
After watching the live recording on Disney+ this past weekend, all of those feelings resurfaced. Seeing the actors and dancers display such palpable emotion in their performances really brought the story to life in a new way. Although everyone in the cast did a stellar job, there was one character that compelled me from beginning to end.
This character’s story arc caused me to re-evaluate certain aspects of my own internal battle with doubt and fear. I never thought I could relate to the “damn fool that shot [Hamilton].” This man is none other than, Aaron Burr.
Now, I know that he was considered a scoundrel and there are plenty of controversies attached to his name. Miranda’s portrayal of this founding father made me empathize with his struggle in standing up for his beliefs. Leslie Odom Jr. did a fantastic job of conveying Burr’s internal complexities.
In “Wait For It,” (one of my favorite songs in the play), Burr contemplates his motivations and wonders why Hamilton achieves so much in such a short period of time. He states,
Hamilton faces an endless uphill climb
He has something to prove
He has nothing to lose
Hamilton’s pace is relentless
He wastes no time
What is it like in his shoes?
Here, Burr longs to have the same drive that Hamilton does but he’d rather wait around for the right opportunity. At the beginning of the play, Burr offers Hamilton some advice. He tells Hamilton to “talk less, smile more, and don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for” (“Aaron Burr, Sir”).
Instead of speaking his mind or picking a fight in every situation, Burr takes a more calculated approach and avoids conflict at all costs. Burr desires to control his life and wants to proceed with caution. He says it himself:
I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable
I am an original
I’m not falling behind or running late
I’m not standing still
I am lying in wait
Hamilton constantly challenges Burr to step out of his comfort zone and take a stand for his beliefs. He asks “if you stand for nothing Burr, what do you fall for?” (“Aaron Burr, Sir”). Burr’s character arc challenges me to stand against doubt and fear.
There are times in my life where I’d rather wait for the perfect opportunity instead of seizing the moment. I learned that it’s wise to think before you speak but you shouldn’t let fear keep you silent. Since Burr failed to stand for something, he had a hard fall.
Aaron Burr’s story taught me that I shouldn’t silence my voice out of fear of confrontation. Even if people disagree with my views, that doesn’t make my message less valuable. God didn’t give me a spirit of fear. He gave me a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). He also equipped me with the Holy Spirit to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Instead of lying in wait, I need to stand up for the truth no matter what. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton reminds us that if we fail to stand up for truth, we will fall for deception and destruction.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”