In the last three weeks I’ve been affected by two creative endeavors and the news of a suicide.
When I say I’ve been affected, I mean that they have touched me to my core and have made me think very hard about what the word legacy means. Since sometime during my sophomore year in high school, I’ve wondered about what my life’s purpose is for – and have tried my best to create something that will be left behind after I’m gone. That’s why I write. What we create can inspire others that come after us.
Parks and Rec touched me because it is, at its core, a series about good people doing their damnedest to affect positive change for their community, town and fellow human beings. Sure some of the events of the series are silly and over-the-top and exaggerated… but the characters are people I would dearly love to have as friends. They care deeply about one another, go to bat for one another, help, heal and support one another – without fail. They represent the best in all of us – and at the end of the series, I was emotionally raw and teary-eyed. I didn’t want it to end – because, I will miss seeing them and getting to participate in their shenanigans.
I didn’t watch Parks and Rec when it was on TV – I caught it on Netflix and binge-watched while I was under the weather, and continued to do so until I finished it. I really enjoyed being able to watch episode after episode and that perhaps added to the amount to which it affected me. The compacted time-frame and the immediacy of seeing the stories that close together made it that much more poignant and heart-breaking when the final episode concluded.
I think each and everyone of us needs a Leslie Knope in our lives. Fiercely loyal and hungry to do the right thing, someone who wants to affect those around them for the better – who believes, down deep in her soul, that each and everyone of us are important and that it is what we leave behind that matters – that our lives are not just for now – but for future generations. I really wish I knew her personally – even though she is obsessed with organizing and binders. I really wish I had a cheerleader like her as a friend. I know she’s just a character on a TV show. But I wish she wasn’t.
And can I tell you how awesome it is that her last name is Knope? Because she never takes nope for an answer? That’s brilliant.
Her parting gift to Ron was a stand out/highlight moment for me – a true example of knowing what matters most to those who she cares about.
The musical Hamilton has already been praised and written about extensively. It is a work of genius and exemplifies all that is good about musical theater. I have listened to the songs and music and have been mesmerized by the way the story is told and moved by the words of the final song Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story?
In this time of fractious politics and turmoil it is a testament to the founding principles that established this nation and to the hunger to make one’s mark on the world. It is a reminder that we can be great, not petty and hateful as some would want us to be.
But what really inspires and lifts me up about the work is beauty of the cast’s diversity and the moving performances told in musical styles that are traditional and non-traditional… and how it has taken the earliest beginnings of our story as a country and given it a voice that is of today.
The final words of the final song are something that is a sentiment I have been concerned with for most of my adult life. I am well aware that my actions, my words and my deeds affect not just myself but others as well – and I do hope that what I leave behind, little as it may be will be well thought of, that it might lift someone up – if even for a moment – that it has an impact and leaves the world just a little bit better.
Listening to the final song of the musical it is hard not to be affected by the beauty of the voices and music – that the lives of a few who were simply moving through history as we move through history, who were living lives as best they could, subject to jealousies and passions and hopes and dreams have been translated into a work of art that elevates them out of the history books and brings them to life once again.
It is a clarion call for everyone to examine their own lives, to look at their legacy and to make you wonder – will they tell your story? And more importantly – should they tell your story?
If you are not touched by it, then I feel sorry for you.
I think the folks in the political spotlight really should examine whether or not what they are squabbling about at this moment in time is what they want to be remembered for – because, as the song says, there is never enough time to do all we want to do.
Make the best of your time, do what you can and do things for others… that’s what is left behind.
When you time is up, have you done enough?
And that brings me to the third item that has affected me – the suicide of a an acquaintance.
What bothers me most about the death is that – I won’t ever be able to share with him the words I just wrote. I won’t be able to convey the sentiment I felt about Parks and Rec and Hamilton, to ask if he too had been affected to some degree by these creative works – to get his thoughts and feelings about them.
I didn’t know him well or at all really, we were lucky enough to have stories that were part of an anthology, we traded messages on Facebook – and that’s the extent of my relationship with him. Other than me being taken aback by the news of his death of course.
It bothers me that his death affected others – that it left hurt behind. I hope there was good too – as I said, I didn’t know him well… but I enjoyed his writing and so that is how I will remember him. That he gave of himself, rather than taking away from us.
Still – how much more could he have done? How much can any of us?
Our time here is brief, and though we can get easily caught up in petty human events and situations – we must try and see beyond them. We should do little things and big things to help each other. To hold onto those moments of connection and recognition – to speak our hearts when we should, not when it is too late.
Who lives, who dies, who tells our story?
That is up to you.
Give them something good to tell.