Recently I was able to see the play Hamilton on Broadway, based on the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernov. The book was a best-seller and has reawakened the world to a face found on the $10 bill – Alexander Hamilton.
This play is the hottest ticket in town, and I was fortunate to be able to see it. I didn’t know what to expect, and if things get dull, even on the Great White Way, I can be seen sleeping. That is especially true of some operas I have attended. In this case I didn’t know what I would think of a hip hop, sort of rock/reggae musical. With all of that in mind, the play “blew my mind”. It was absolutely mesmerizing, and surprisingly, since I am not necessarily a fan of rap or hip hop, I really enjoyed the whole musical. I was fascinated by how author and star Lin-Manuel Miranda kept so close to the historical context – almost to the letter. Hamilton is, like many other statesmen of the past, a forgotten figure in American history. His grave can be seen in the cemetery of Trinity Church on Wall Street – I have actually visited it and have also been to the site where he was shot by Aaron Burr in a duel in Weehawken, NJ (anything can happen in NJ…).
While I liked all the music, I enjoyed “My Shot”. It is an interesting song to which I related immediately. For one thing, I am familiar with the term from basketball, where the coach might tell you that “if you are free or in the clear, take your shot.” You don’t always get to take your shot and usually have to pass the ball on to someone who has a better shot.
I could see why it’s a metaphor for Alexander Hamilton, who grew up a “bastard” child, abandoned by his father and left an orphan at a very young age when his mother died. Growing up outside the U.S., with little support, he was able to carve out for himself an education that took him into the highest echelons of power in American politics. He was a member of Congress, Treasury Secretary, and the right-hand man for the first president of the U.S., George Washington. His life was a meteoric climb to the top and when you sum it up in the simplest of terms, he saw an opening and took his shot. He also made his shot.
When you think about it, “Take your shot” is a wonderful metaphor for all of us in this life. It conjures up the opposition you receive in life as you move down the court. People try to steal the ball from you, even foul you, let alone knock you on the floor. So, when you see a shot opportunity, you need to take it. Who knows what will happen, and who knows when you’ll get another shot again. It’s all a risk, but if you don’t do it, you are trapped in the world you are living in, missing a chance to move into something better or with more options to grow and be creative with the gifts God has given you.
In thinking about the play, I thought about myself – I came from a wonderful family with lots of love, but after that, life came at me fast. I was wise enough to take a shot. I didn’t always make it, but I would hate to have seen my life it I hadn’t taken that shot.
One of the great authors of modern existentialism is a Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard. He always thought that in your journey God is offering you opportunities and calling you to decisions. Lots of people don’t take their shot because they don’t want to risk anything, or they are afraid, and that is sad.
Kierkegaard tells a story of a barnyard full of ducks on their way to church. When church is over, they remark how wonderful the sermon was. The pastor duck emphasized the fact that they all have wings. Those wings can take you anywhere. You can soar, he said, yet the group of ducks waddles back to the safety of the barnyard where they are later butchered.
I guess I am finally saying that you need to seize the day, take your shot, and discover what is really out there for you. Wasn’t Jesus offering us the same invitation?