Lin-Manuel Miranda Will Warm Your Heart

I don’t know about you, but I frequently find myself in need of a strong dose of positivity in order to get through my day. It’s pretty nice to be able to wake up, struggle through the bleary-minded period right after waking up while my six subsequent alarms go off every other minute (anything less has, at least once, not brought me out of the bleary-minded period enough to actually wake up), and check my phone to find a nice, heartwarming good morning message from my favorite person on the internet, Lin-Manuel Miranda. He doesn’t send them to me specifically, but he tweets them out every morning and I’ve set up my phone to get notifications every time he tweets because he’s such a positive voice in the world. Since I also like to go to bed on a positive note, I always save his “good night” messages for as I’m climbing into bed. They’re just as positive and usually related to the earlier message. It’s often has some kind of flipped message or is a “ending/end-of-day” variation of the morning tweet. It’s a bit of a drag that they’re only sent out on weekdays, but I can understand his desire to stay off his official twitter account on the weekends. I sometimes feel the same way but I don’t yet have the luxury of time away from my craft, seeing as the time spent on my craft is actually my time away from the rest of my life.

The only thing better that getting those good morning and good night messages would be some kind of collection of those ideas. Which, guess what, is a thing that exists. Someone collected and curated a bunch of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets into a book called Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks For me and You. Gmorning, Gnight! is my second favorite book from this year, after only An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. With a wonderful selection of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Good Morning and Good Night tweets and illustrations by the amazing Jonny Sun, Gmorning, Gnight! is a ray of sunshine in what has otherwise been a rather dark few months for me. The positivity, love, and support of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets manages to carry through into the book without losing anything and actually gains a little more warmth thanks to Jonny Sun’s illustrations that capture and magnify the feeling of the tweets.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend reading this book from cover to cover. If you need a sustained burst of positivity, maybe read through a dozen or so pages, but you’ll probably be better off going to his twitter feed for that. While nothing is lost in the message itself, there’s something to be said for the freshness of the messages on Twitter. The message of each tweet isn’t any different from the ones in the books, but they feel much more immediate and relevant to the days we live in than Good Morning or Good Night messages from years ago. Thanks to the chaotic and difficult times we live in, the more recent ones have a certain amount of resolute weariness to them that gives them a little more oomph. If you just want something warm and positive to juggle around in the mind because you’re trying to pull out of a negative thought stream or you need something to give you that quick little boost, just grab the book and crack it open to any old page. You’ll find a warm message that’ll life the corners of your mouth and take the edge off the weariness in your heart. If that particular one isn’t working for you, or you have a habit of opening books to the same place all the time despite your best efforts (I can’t understand, much less explain, how I keep opening to the same set of messages every other time I open the book), just flip a couple pages in either direction and you’ll find something that works.

If you want to get the most out of this book, I recommend learning to meditate and using a message that resonates with you on any given day as the focus of your meditation. There are a lot of really wonderful images in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s message, both on his Twitter account and in his book, so they make excellent focal points for most meditation. Most of my favorite involve pacing oneself, going at one’s own speed, or focusing on marching to the beat of your heart rather than someone else’s. Since I struggle with the feeling that I’m not getting enough done or that I’m not working hard enough to make the kind of progress I want, it’s important for me to keep myself focused on doing as much as I can without over-extending myself. Given how often it shows up in his tweets and how many times it appears in the book, I think Lin-Manuel Miranda probably has a similar feeling. He wrote a whole musical about a guy who lived his entire life with this feeling, so I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that he understands the feeling, even if it’s not something he himself constantly struggles with.

That being said, there’s enough other imagery in here that pretty much anyone can find something that fits whatever is going on in their heart or mind. I rarely have to flip more than half a dozen pages to find something that resonates with me, even when I’m not struggling with feelings of running out of time. Everything from learning to forgive yourself, to stuff like learning to love or accept yourself. If you look hard enough and actually read through Gmorning, Gnight! from front to back, I’m sure you could find a message for any occasion. Someday, I might do just that. Instead of memorizing poetry or being able to summarize great thinkers of big ideas, I’m going to memorize the modern-day wisdom of self-love and self-kindness that Lin-Manuel Miranda espouses. Any time someone needs support, I’ll be able to draw wisdom and support from the annals of the greatest, kindest person on the internet. I bet there are other people out there who do similar things, but how many people have the kind of platform Lin-Manuel Miranda does who then use it to spread positivity and kindness? If you know of any, send them to me!

The kindness, care, and concern Lin-Manuel Miranda expresses at the entirety of the internet still manages to feel directed toward you specifically. Look at the subtitle of his book: “little pep talks for me and you.” He’s said before that his Good Morning and Good Night tweets are the messages he most needs to hear each day, but they seem so heartfelt and open that they couldn’t be for anyone but him and you, like the title implies. This thing, the way he manages to make them feel personal despite being shared with millions of other people, is why I’m still on Twitter and social media in general. I almost gave it all up toward the end of the summer but following his Twitter account (something that was off limits until I’d seen Hamilton, just like listening to the soundtrack was off limits) is what convinced me that the internet could still be a good place. John and Hank Green’s videos this fall, in addition to the talking they did during Hank’s book tours, helped solidify it, but I wouldn’t have made it that long with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets.

Since Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me and You is the hardcover version of those tweets, I honestly can’t recommend it enough. As I struggle to deal with my grandfather’s failing health, my own grief, and the complicated relationship I have with my family that is only made more complicated by the holidays and current circumstances, this book is pretty much the other thing that can pull me out of a negative spiral of emotions and thoughts. I recommend buying it and keeping it near your bed or wherever you do most of your reflect. It’ll be incredibly helpful.

 

I Finally Saw Hamilton

On Tuesday of last week, the twenty-eight of August, I got a notification on my phone I had always dreamed of getting but never expected to actually get. I had won the Hamilton lottery and could purchase one or two tickets to see the show in Chicago on the following day. Needless to say, after spending two minutes freaking out, I bought two tickets and then started going down my list of people to invite. Unfortunately, my first pick was busy since it was his first day back at work (as opposed to cleaning up while on the clock) following the flooding and he couldn’t get the day off to drive to Chicago for a matinée showing. Thankfully, one of my roommates was my second choice and he was able to get the day off. So I went. Even with eight hours of driving due to traffic and construction, it was worth it.

Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s big-hit musical, was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I cried throughout it, not just at the emotional moments, of which there were many, but whenever the writing, acting, vocal work, staging, and lighting came together to create these wonderful little moments of perfection. As a whole, the musical showcases some of the most clever writing I’ve ever seen and sets aside the tried-and-true method of weaving songs together for one that relies more heavily on certain phrases that are the best foreshadowing I’ve ever witnessed. Between the moments where the songs themselves pull you out of the show, to impart some useful historical information or to help move things along, I was caught up in a world of song and voice. I can’t remember what the people who sat in front of me looked like, despite the fact that I spent three hours staring over their shoulders. I lost sight of everything while the show was in full swing. I was more caught up in this show than in anything else I’ve ever seen, read, or done. The full three hours of the show passed in a blink, interrupted only by an intermission that felt longer than either half of the musical.

While I can’t speak about the show in a general sense, since my only experience with it was the specific show being performed in Chicago, I honestly can’t imagine how it could ever be done poorly. The set was fairly standard, a level stage with an upper deck the actors could reach using a couple of on-stage staircases or some off-stage ones, and mostly functioned as a place for more of the chorus to dance and sing from, though it was used to add emphasis for some characters during important moments. The set was used entirely for staging, for dictating where people moved and how actors showed up on stage. All of the scene-setting, all of the environmental stuff that told you where the bit the actor were currently performing, was done entirely through lighting and the clever use of props. Using stuff like tables, desks, stools, and various similar things, they were able to create everything from a tent in the Revolutionary War to bedrooms or open fields. The best part of the staging was their use of a two-part turntable so one group of actors or props would spin one way and another group would spin the other way. They used this to amazing effect in one of the songs during the second half of the show, “Hurricane.” It blew me away and created the images that have stuck with me the most.

Honestly, the entire show was memorable. Each moment felt perfect, each little bit of acting and each scene being set felt like it was perfectly natural and complete, like it was unfolding on stage the way it certainly must have unfolded in the eighteenth century (with perhaps some liberty taken for language). I’ve been listening to the soundtrack since I got back into my car after the show and I feel like I can sit back, listen to the amazing music, and rewatch the entire show in my head. Each of the actors stood out from the crowd in their own ways and there was no wasted movement as they made their way around the stage. It was super clear they had the practiced precision that comes with repeating something dozens of times, but the emotion and energy they put into the show felt like this was their first night in front of an audience.

I don’t want to go too deeply into the content of the show because I avoided everything from the music to plot summaries for almost three years before I finally got to see Hamilton and I’m so glad I did. The sheer wonder and powerful emotion in some of the songs would have created scenes in my head and I would never have gotten the chance to see the show for the first time without any expectations or preconceptions. It was worth the years of denial for that moment when the lights dimmed and the first actor walked out on stage. I know it’s probably too late to recommend that you do the same thing, but hold on to that abstinence if you’ve managed to stay away so far. The music is magical and there are scripts out there you can read, but the show itself is better by far and worth waiting for.

What I will say is that it’s a relatively modern take on Hamilton, specifically it reflects modern scholarly opinions of Alexander Hamilton and some of the other Founding Fathers. The music is pretty Hip-Hop centric, which is another way it’s modern, but it seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of history, with the only liberties taken being in the way the characters spoke to each other rather than how situations resolved. I did some research to confirm this and it’s as accurate as a couple hours of reading can show. I’m sure a dedicated historian could shed more light on the subject, but I don’t have the time for getting another bachelor’s degree before writing this review.

I suggest downloading the Hamilton app so you can participate in the lottery or, if you’ve got a bit more money to spend, buying tickets the normal way. No matter where you see it, no matter who you see it with, it’ll be one of the most memorable days of your life. I suggest you go invest in enriching your soul.