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What I Didn’t Know I Needed to Know

What I Didn’t Know I Needed to Know

Like many others, I wasn’t able to escape craze surrounding Hamilton: An American Musicalthat has swept America in the last few years. Whether it’s the shock and novelty of rap in a major musical, the celebration of an unsung American hero, the brilliant character development, or the themes that keep recurring in unexpected places, it seems to be finding its way into American hearts on a host of levels.

And even though I can’t resist getting into a good hip-hop song, I think my favorite thing about Hamilton is the way you’re invited to empathize with so many different characters. You can relate to the heroes and the villains. In fact, some might say there aren’t really clear heroes or villains. There are just humans…all of whom made some poor choices and some heroic choices. History tends to flatten these individuals as good or bad, and Hamilton brings those characters back to life and gives them dimension. Makes them all relatable. Makes you ask if you might have made the same choices in the same circumstances…makes you question things you thought you knew about yourself.

This is really what I appreciate about any good musical, when I give myself the chance. What do I not know about the world, or myself, that I can discover by seeing through this or that character’s eyes?

I’ve observed recently that the opportunity exists to use movies and music in the same way—to invite them to expose me to different perspectives—but I typically don’t. I typically listen to music that celebrates the things I already think and feel. I typically like movies that celebrate the kind of stories I already value or paint the world in a way I already see it.

And I’ve realized I don’t like that about myself. I am missing the chance to see the world through the eyes of the artist or director—and in doing so, to learn and to grow. To bump into ideas and experiences and perspectives I wasn’t aware of. To learn things I didn’t know I needed to know.

I say I don’t like to spend time around ideas and people that reinforce what I already think, but I don’t always act on that. Sometimes it might be that I don’t know where or how to look for those artistic expressions outside the circles I already walk in. But I appreciate contemporary art in all its forms as something that can break through my current viewpoints and stretch me farther.

And I’d like to do that more—I’d like to invite more art into my life with the purpose of letting it show me things I didn’t know I needed to understand.

Do you use art to expand your mind? Or to reinforce what you already think? Or do you invite art into your life for a totally different purpose?

This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Megan manages the THRED.org website and content. She loves having her mind blown by people who don’t think like her, and she collects coffee cup sleeves to mark her adventures to new places.

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