Recently I wrote about the virtue of flexibility, expressed both in yoga and in Hamilton. Obviously a body must be flexible to do yoga poses, while Hamilton was flexible in his strategy towards life. He “did what it [took] to survive” (and thrive). Burr, meanwhile, is inflexible and unadaptable to the point where it destroys him.
But after consideration, I wonder if I didn’t give Burr his due, at least in terms of philosophy. Sure, he kills someone and went on after the musical’s era to make some highly dubious decisions. However, his way has some insight for us too. As much as we need Hamilton’s flexibility, we need Burr’s control.
A yogi would be a floppy mess without any control at all. And anyone who has tried lowering themselves slowly from boat pose knows that a slowly controlled drop is far harder and more rewarding than a quick plop.
And of course, unbridled flexibility has its downsides. Hamilton’s flexibility without control gets him into quite a bit of trouble, perhaps most notably when he can’t “say no to this” with Maria Reynolds.
Perhaps the best place we can see Burr’s philosophy of control is in his song “Wait for It” when he sings “I am the one thing in life I can control, I am indivisible, I am inimitable.” That phrase resonated with me immediately, and not just because the word “inimitable” is incredibly cool. But I find that over time my reaction to it is changing as I consider what it means to control.
At first, when I got into Hamilton, I had a print-out of the quote up in my kitchen, trying to make myself control what I eat. Later I took it down, concluding that I was trying to beat my own self into submission. I realized I needed more flexibility in my diet approach.
Today, I think I am coming to a new point of view with the phrase. Rather than using it as a rallying cry to gain a laser focus on my own improvements, perhaps it is a reminder of the limits of control. I am the only the thing in life I can control – i.e., I can’t control the other people, the other environments, I have limits.
With that realization comes humility. Not only can I not control other people and things, maybe I shouldn’t control other people and things. Hamilton’s unbridled flexibility and zeal was successful in some ways but not in his fidelity for Eliza. Likewise, his plans for a strong central government could easily have gone a little hay wire (think, Big Brother haywire.) He could have used a little more control.
Control means setting limits, which is often a good and necessary thing; in yoga, in government, in interpersonal relationships.
As much as I have the freedom to do whatever I want on my own yoga mat, others have their own mats, their own thoughts, their own ways, in and out of class. Accept that you are original and inimitable–but so are they.
That doesn’t mean we forget Hamilton’s energy to change the world-but as in so many things with yoga, we balance it with Burr’s control. Don’t let your fervor turn into impatience and the need to take over somebody else’s mat. If need be, channel a bit of Burr and know your own limits. When it comes to making things the way you think they should be, allow others a chance to make things the way they should be. Be ready, as he says, to wait for it.