A New Year, A New Earth, and Hamilton
I read Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, way back in January, meandering through it slowly as if I were on vacation, reading the same paragraphs over and over until the import of them sunk in: live in the here and now; dispel negativity; take care of yourself; jettison the ego; and when you do all that, watch your world take flight. I dog-eared so many pages that the depth of the book expanded half an inch. I wrote thoughts and ideas down in my journal, tearing them down and reconstructing them, hoping to synthesize some of Tolle’s wisdom into my marrow.
By February, I couldn’t recall a thing I’d read. Did I absorb any of it? Or despite my re-readings, never understood it? Could there be another theory, one that involves a message being so intrinsic to my own way of thinking that I can no longer distinguish it as something new? I’m going with latter because I feel like less of a slacker, plus it gives me hope for humanity in general. The truth is, we all feel this way, think this way, know this way, and want to be this way; we’ve just forgotten how.
Another month, and a series of late winter snows holds March in the crosshairs. I’m swirling in long-range ideas, trying on decisions like cocktail dresses, ones that I hope will carry me through the next decade of my life. I’m at a crossroads now, the daily demands of parenting all on long-term hold with the kids off to college, and me, eager to try a more creative approach to making a living, something that uses more of the skills I’ve acquired over the last several decades.
This means leaving the security of the known to venture out into the unknown, a scary prospect for those who think we should have everything pinned down, managed, tidy, and socked away in neat little bundles that we can point to when someone asks an innocuous question like, “so what is it you do?” Altering course can be tough for us as adults since every new experience puts you on the bottom rung of the learning ladder, not a comfortable place for those who’ve earned the upper rungs with years of experience. But eventually, even the most exciting job can become the same old thing and we grow tired, our hands work reduced to repetitive stress syndrome, leaving reinvention as the only option.
For me, it’s not a question of should I choose a new path, but which one? A little divine intervention would be dreamy right now because: a) I have a lot of interests and it’s hard to choose, and b) who doesn’t love a good Deus ex Machina, although I doubt resolutions are still being delivered this way in the 21st century. So I keep working, writing, thinking and feeling my way toward the next plot point that is my life, hoping for a thunderbolt of clarity to strike where all will be revealed for the next decade or so.
What can a person do while waiting for their revelation? I recommend a good soundtrack. I’ve been listening to Hamilton pretty much non-stop since the new year began. Other than a summer-long stint with the soundtrack to Hairspray some years back — my daughter and I in the car, belting out the tunes as I drove her to school — I don’t remember ever listening to a musical on full repeat. Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a hip-hop odyssey unlike any other, historically accurate says my college history professor friend, an inspired and inspiring work of genius.
Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury, an immigrant and polymath who created a stunning career through force of will and left an indelible mark on our country with his financial policies, a visionary and self-starter who ingratiated himself at the highest levels of government, a man determined to leave his mark on history, an inspiration for anyone embarking on a journey into the unknown with a secret desire to make the world a better place. Miranda spent a year rewriting the song My Shot, until he got it just right. That kind of tenacity breeds amazing results and Hamilton the musical is the proof.
Hamilton encourages action in the face of adversity. Is it any wonder that in these precarious times Miranda’s show is such a success? The world is balanced on the head of a pin: climate change, mass extinctions, a global water crisis, a restructuring of the world order, governments in disarray and more bad news than any of us can take in anymore without imploding. Can we ever return to simpler times? I suspect not, but while we’re sifting through the morass, at least we’ll have good music.
I counsel my college-aged kids to be patient, follow the things that have heart and meaning, breathe into the stress, write down your hopes and concerns, don’t worry about long-term outcomes because the bigger pieces always seem to fall into place when you stay in the moment and pay close attention to the minutiae because it’s the little things that form the bedrock of any new endeavor. After a time of slow growth and introspection, the road forward will suddenly open to you, paved, well-lit and ready for travel, your own new earth, waiting to be discovered.
Time to go ahead and take a shot.