I’ma talk Hamilton for just a millisecond.
Across the front of my monitor stand at work, I have a line of rainbow-colored sticky notes on which I’ve penned, in some very basic hand-lettering styles, eight quotes from the play. I love the story that Hamilton tells, even amongst the historical liberties that Lin-Manuel Miranda (admittedly) took for the sake of plot. It’s okay. All artists do the same thing, and I think it’s all right as long as it’s not excessive and we’re up-front about it. The Author’s Note in my novel, when it’s published, will explain some of the plot-over-history choices that I made, too.
For my office décor, I chose quotes from Hamilton that mean something to me right now. For one reason or another, each sticky note inspires me in some way, be it simple or profound. I’ve also recently been browsing art featuring Hamilton quotes and in the process have run across many, many Hamilton tattoos, both design ideas and photographs of actual ink on people’s bodies.
So Hamilton must, regardless of its popularity or the story it tells or whether or not someone is the slightest bit interested in American history, tell universal truths through its story and lyrics, and that is what makes good art.
I went through a time years ago during which many songs from Rent were my anthem. I can’t identify personally with anyone living through the AIDS epidemic or using intravenous drugs or really much else that those characters experienced. But they are all human beings, and there are truths in their lives and in the art created to tell their stores that we can all cling to.
I only made sticky notes, but if people are paying for wall art and for artists to permanently tattoo their skin with quotes from Hamilton, then it really must mean something. And it means something different to every person who listens to it or watches it. When I look at my pink sticky note that says, “Wait for It,” it won’t evoke the same response in me that it does in the next person. But it evokes a response, and that’s what’s important. And beautiful. And exactly what we need to connect with our emotions and process the things that are happening in our lives.
Albert Camus said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” But maybe we could also say, “All art is an expression through which we tell the truth.”
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go purchase and download that Hamilton .png so I can hang it on my wall.