There is still room for Joy — maybe more than before

 

One night in the 1950s when Eisenhower was president and in the suburbs at least people kept up with the Joneses my friend Dee Dee and I were lounging in the beds which folded out from chairs in her bedroom in her family’s apartment on West 58th Street discusussing  serious issues.  It might have been 1956 after the Hungarian uprising during which the US failed to support the uprising as the uprisers thought they would.. And at the same time  we had read about some mind-blowing Hungarian art  or novel.´ I can’t put this in quotes because I don´t remember after all these years who said what. And I don´t remember what provoked it. Maybe we were stuck in some homework assignment.  We were stuck on the idea that life in the USA we saw and read about was kind of boring at the moment: a keeping up with the Jones time.  Or at least life as it was seen on “Father Knows Best”and “Ozzie and Harriet” was which of course seemed only faintly like what we knew of life in NYC.

So we decided in our thirteen or fourteen year old seriousness that maybe people were able to be more creative when life around them was harder and more threatening.  When political life wasn’t so bland.  Of course we were, to put it mildly, naive.

The horrors of these days of Trump have not made it easier for me to be creative.  If anything,  it is hard not to be overwhelmed by daily frightening news revealing our Presiden’t heartlessness and stupidity,  hard to go from news story to opinion piece to photos which inflict groans and depression. So these  politically difficult days haven’t until maybe just recently, made me feel the least bit creative.  Doomed is more like it. And drawn inexorably to  internet news like some people are drawn to opioids, but with no reward.

So yesterday I decided to limit my news viewing time.  I imagine there is a withdrawal period because it wasn’t until this morning that I caught sight of a spark of light:  An article built around an interview with Stephen Sondheim by Lin Manuel Miranda in The New York Times.  Here is the link.  You should read the article.

I have to say here with great pride though I have nothing to do with it and am decades removed from his attendance, that Lin Manuel Miranda and I both attended the same wonderful high school:  Hunter College High School.  Miranda is the creator — and I mean the creator — of the musical, Hamilton: Book, lyrics, music.  And the first star.  I have never seen it live, but the musicand dancing seem to dominate  is the show, and it is a miraculous amalgam of rap,  hip-hoprhythm and bluespop music, and traditional-style show tunes recounting the life of Alexander Hamilton with a cast representing the rainbow that is America   And it was written in the 2010’s, a time which was marked by the general mess that is modern life, with the rich getting richer, the poor poorer, opioid use growing, towns dying, the middle east burning up.  I guess what I find I’m learning now, at my somewhat advanced age, is that joy and sorrow and death and birth and evil and good are always threaded together, and there is never not an excuse for joy.  Hamilton, the musical, makes no bones about the mix of this stuff in Alexander Hamilton’s life, but still, it is an ode to joy´– it brings joy for the creative spirit,  the strength, the insistent persistence of all kinds of artists.

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