The world is wide enough

The stories we tell ourselves shape our lives and the world around us. When we are closed to learning more about ourselves, the stories we tell ourselves knock us about and take us wherever they want to take us. If open to learning about ourselves, we see that the stories we tell ourselves are stories we choose, whether consciously or unconsciously.

If open to learning about ourselves, we see that the stories we tell ourselves are stories we choose. 

The investments we make in learning about self are long haul investments that may take years, decades or lifetimes to materialize. Sometimes there are small pieces of story that shift incrementally. Other times the learning journey involves BIG lessons, like what happens for narrator Aaron Burr, in the Broadway hit Hamilton–he tells us at the top of the show that he will shoot his political nemesis, Alexander Hamilton.

BURR: And me? I’m the damn fool that shot him. 

The tension between Burr and Hamilton pulls the story–and the audience–along to the next-to-final scene and the duel. Here’s what runs through Burr’s mind:

BURR: I watched Hamilton examine the terrain.

I wish I could tell you what was happening in his brain.

This man has poisoned my political pursuits.

I had only one thought before the slaughter:

This man will not make an orphan of my daughter. 

And Hamilton, as the bullet is making its way to him, imagines death:

HAMILTON: Is this where it gets me, on my feet, several feet ahead of me?

I see it coming, do I run or fire my gun or let it be?

There is no beat, no melody.

Burr, my first friend, my enemy,

May be the last face I ever see?

If I throw away my shot, is this how you remember me?

What if this bullet is my legacy?

Teach me how to say goodbye.

Hamilton raises his pistol to the sky; he is not taking deadly aim but rather choosing not to even attempt to kill Burr. He’s not ‘throwing away his shot’ to say goodbye in better terms than by killing another man. (Note: he’s in almost the same location his son Philip died in a duel). Burr’s shot strikes Hamilton ‘right between his ribs’ and it takes this death for Burr to learn this:

BURR: Death doesn’t discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints, It takes and it takes and it takes, 

History obliterates,

In every picture it paints, 

It paints me and all my mistakes. 

When Alexander aimed

At the sky, 

He may have been the first one to die,

But I’m the one who paid for it. 

I survived but I paid for it. 

Now I’m the villain in your history. 

I was too young and blind to see. 

I should’ve known. 

I should’ve known

The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me. 

The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me. 

The story Burr tells himself shifts like tectonic plates. It took a lifetime of drama and a death for the story to change, but then it does with a bang. The story for most of his adult life until that time: ‘Hamilton is a competitor who poisons my political pursuits and there is not enough room for both of us’. He realizes, after killing him, that the world was wide enough for them both. Killing his opponent crosses a line and he, himself, has to cross to the other side of death to see things differently, to find the other story he could choose for himself.

The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me. 

The stories we tell ourselves shape our lives and the lives of the world around us. I can spend a lot of energy telling myself (and others) that people with different opinions are wrong. I can spend my energy finding ways to make sure that my ideas come out ahead, strategizing about how to be competitive and beat out the competition. I can even lull myself into believing that I am so right that it isn’t about competition at all–I am right/they are wrong.

I can let people and their points of view drive me nuts and even erie me to fear. Or, as Aaron Burr learned, I can accept that the world is wide enough for all of us.

It is a choice I make to find ways to make room for others in my life.

It is a choice I make to find ways to make room for others in my life: other points of view, other ways of being in the world. It is a choice I make to welcome difference, to accommodate it, to believe that the world is big enough for other different, crazy things and me. I choose to tell myself I am threatened by otherness, or I choose to accept there is room for all of us.


Do you make room in your life for other, crazy points of view? And what about the people who hold those other, crazy points of view–do you make room for them too?

This is the sixth post in a series inspired by the Broadway hit Hamilton. Here are the previous posts:

  1. Room where it happens
  2. Stay in it
  3. Say no to this
  4. How to say goodbye
  5. Who tells your story?

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