Look Around, Look Around: Thanksgiving Gratitude and “That Would Be Enough” from Hamilton: An American Musical

In which sisters sing a la Destiny’s Child, racist colonialism is perpetuated, and twenty-eight bowls of oatmeal are consumed.

hamilton

To my dear reader,

Alongside the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda’s cultural phenomenon Hamilton: An American Musical tells of the lives of his wife Eliza Schyuler, and her two sisters Peggy and Angelica. The three sisters are introduced, Destiny’s Child style, in the song “The Schyuler Sisters,” and it is here that the line “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now” is introduced. Throughout the show, the line reappears in new contexts, including the songs “Non-Stop” and “It’s Quiet Uptown,” but perhaps its most poignant reappearance is in the song “That Would Be Enough.”

A pregnant Eliza sings the song upon Hamilton’s return from the battlefield, attempting to soothe Hamilton’s fears about having a child, and introduces it with an iteration of “Look around, look around…” But whereas in “The Schyuler Sisters,” “Look around…” was a joyful proclamation of wonder amid a thrilling young revolution, “That Would Be Enough” turns it into a plea of peace and gratitude, as Eliza begs Hamilton to be grateful that they both have survived, when so many others haven’t. Fittingly, what this song makes me think of most is Thanksgiving.

Admittedly, I have never been very good at Thanksgiving. It was always a holiday that made me uncomfortable. In part, it’s because I have long found the celebration of the European invasion of North America and the subsequent genocide and oppression of Native Americans to be a rather unfortunate thing to celebrate. In part, it’s because Thanksgiving is a time wherein one is often forced to socialize with relatives, and I’m just awful at forced socialization. Ultimately, however, it’s because Thanksgiving is a time when society says “Be grateful,” and, being impish and impetuous, I despise being told what to do.

Despite my many qualms with Thanksgiving, however, I think that the topical purpose of the holiday – a chance to gather together and express thanks for the fortune of one’s life – is a wonderful idea. I’ve read many times that people that frequently express gratitude tend to be happier than those that don’t, and so I’m taking this blog post to make a brief and incomplete list of things for which I am grateful.

Five Things for Which I Am Grateful, In No Particular Order

  • …That I Get to Pursue Music Professionally: Many people with much more talent and knowledge than I don’t have the opportunity to make a career of music, and I am incredibly lucky that, after recklessly moving to Tacoma, WA with no plan, I stumbled into so many opportunities to teach, perform and compose.
  • That Oatmeal Exists: I recently discovered the delights of making oatmeal from scratch with brown sugar, honey and soymilk. I think that I’ve eaten four bowls a day for the past week. I have no apologies.
  • That My Parents Are Choice: I don’t know many people with parents as good as mine. They have been so willing to throw time, energy and money into the endless void of my alleged future, from paying for my college education to buying me a car to sending me boxes of shortbread cookies. Everyone should have parents as good as mine.
  • That You Are Reading My Blog: At the end of the day, I write these blog posts for myself. I enjoy writing, and music, and placing music within larger social contexts. But I am nevertheless stunned and honored that anyone would take time out of their day to read some trivial garbage I wrote.
  • …That I’m Alive Right Now: Whenever I hear the question, “If you could live in any time, when would you live?” I cringe. I’m a gay Jew of color – in what other possible time and place could I have as much opportunity as I do now? In any other time and place, I’d probably be lynched, or stoned, or banished to an icy tundra. No matter how bad things may seem today, there is no better time to be alive. So… fuck that shit.

And the best part is, to have just one of these things – that would be enough.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

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