Over the weekend I finished listening to the audiobook Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. A little over a year ago when this book first hit my radar along with the phenomenon that is the Broadway musical that was partly inspired by this book, I knew that under no circumstances should I ever read it or download the soundtrack or engage whatsoever with it. Because if I did it would take about 27 seconds for me to go from not caring, to submerged completely in all things Hamilton.
This is because I cannot like things a normal amount. It’s a problem bigger than I realize sometimes. Like when I find myself researching Henry VIII at 3 am on a Wednesday because I need to know everything that I can possibly know before I can watch the second episode of The Tudors. Or it takes me 6 hours to watch the first episode of The Crown because even though the episode is explaining things, it’s not explaining it enough, and I am genuinely interested in British Monarchies. This need to obsess over things isn’t necessarily bad, it makes me feel educated. But at the same time, I feel a little like Hermione when Ron calls her an insufferable know-it-all because I know too much about too many unimportant things because someone will ask a question and I will talk (and talk and talk and talk) about it for a long time.
One of my major hobbies arguing with the History Channel when it inaccurately depicts Paul Revere a much bigger deal than he really was and tries to pass off the picture that appears on a bottle of Sam Adams as an actual portrait of Samuel Adams (it’s actually Paul Revere, Sam Adams was super ugly, and Paul Revere was kind of handsome, and since he didn’t ride across Massachuttes on horseback when the British were coming he has to have something). So, I knew the moment I saw the first GIF of the musical crossed my Tumblr dash that if I looked into the source of these that I would be neck deep in history and unable to pull myself out. I would become that weird person that finds a way to bring Alexander Hamilton into every single conversation I have. Considering the cultural atmosphere of the last couple months and how much The Constitution has been brought up in everyday conversation, it actually hasn’t been a stretch to include Hamilton, and I haven’t pushed my friends to the point where they are annoyed with me yet.
However, it’s coming. I will annoy my friends. I always find a way to annoy them by liking things too much.
When I like things, I like them. I am passionate about many things. When I find something I like, I need to absorb every last thing about it. I either am finding out everything I possibly can about something, or not caring whatsoever.
In October one of my best friends told me that I had to listen to the soundtrack to Hamilton because it was awesome (so she doesn’t get to complain about it when I discuss Hamilton related facts for the rest of forever, sorry Jen). I was hesitant because I am an obsessive personality that doesn’t like things, I love things or do not care about things. It when very quickly from “I don’t want to listen to this”, to singing Dear Theodosia to my cat-son, Elliot, at bedtime. It took one whole day.
Here is a picture of that for cuteness:
He much prefers the album version to mine, but I will continue to sing it to him. I think he likes this song because every day when I get home from work, I greet him as “My Son!” which is a line in the song. I don’t know he’s a cat. Maybe he likes the melody.
Setting aside the fact that I can’t casually like things, and therefore highly recommend everything that I like, this book is ah-mazing. It’s nuanced and funny and tackles incredibly boring things like the Federalist papers in a way that didn’t make me want to turn it off. Alexander Hamilton was a complex and often contradictory man with opinions about everything (which is probably why I identified with him as I listened to his story). He had a part in nearly every significate event that happened between 1777 and 1804. From Benedict Arnold to the first documented murder trial in the United States, to the founding of the Coast Guard to the first time a Vice President shot their friend– because that has happened more that one time in American History.
There is a great scene between the Revolution and the establishment of The Constitution that the narrative goes off and describes this picnic that Hamilton and George Washington had by a river during the war in super weird detail talking about what they ate and the color of the blanket. Then dives right back into the monotony of establishing a government.
There are moments in this book that so perfectly parallel the current political climate that rediscovering and celebrating this man’s life is coming at the exact right time. We as 21st Century Americans can learn so much from our 18th and 19th-century counterparts. We as 21st Century Americans should take notice of the founding of our nation as learn from it. George and his boys were smart, we shouldn’t ignore the lessons they laid out for us.
It’s a sad story, considering the potential that this man had and how his own pride and inability to let things go eventually killed him. His story is such an important part of the history of this country. Nearly a cautionary tale: apologize or that frienemy you’ve known for nearly 30 years will shoot you in New Jersey.
To be real for a sec, how Alexander Hamilton lived to be between 47 and 49 years old and was only shot once is sort of a miracle.
This great and equally terrible man’s life left those living 212 years after he was killed many a lesson to learn from:
Strive for greatness and don’t let asshats like Thomas Jefferson stop you.
When someone suggests that some else should write a couple paragraphs about why John Adams is a terrible president, don’t write a 57-page essay about everything thing the man has ever done in his life because it makes you look petty.
Love your family and don’t forget that there are more important things that work.
Don’t write a 100-page book about your extramarital affair to prove your not stealing from the government because that’s gross, Alex, seriously.
Make your mark, because your contemporaries could outlive you by 30 or 40 years and they will do everything to make sure history forgets how much you did– and not all of us can have Lin-Manuel Miranda write a musical about us.
But most importantly, live. Just live and if you do it well enough, history will remember you.
This post could probably be thousands of words long. The book and the short life that it depicts is just so important. It’s truly inspiring, and probably for the first time, I’m happy that I’m an all in or nothing type of person.
Until next time Internet,