Monday Musical: “Seasons of Love” from “Rent”

525,600 minutes
525, 000 moments so dear
525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d like “Rent.”  I’ve always been a fan of the old-school, Rodgers & Hammerstein/ Lerner & Lowe shows; you know, the classics.  Call me the world’s youngest old fogey, but rock musicals have never really been my thing.

But the guy I was dating in 2001 — otherwise known as my now-husband, Scott — was a big fan of “Rent.”  When a traveling company  came to San Francisco, he took me to see it, and before I knew it, I was hooked.

How do you measure, measure a year?

How about love?

My life, on the face of it, has nothing in common with the characters in this show.  I have never been a starving artist, a drug addict, or HIV-positive.  And yet I have lost people I love to terminal illness.  I have struggled to figure out where the heck I’m going with my life.   I’ve been afraid to love and get hurt, and I’ve struggled to live as authentically as I can.  Haven’t we all, really?  I think so … and I think that’s why this show has been so phenomenally successful.

There’s a debt that I owe to this show, too, which I’ve never really articulated before.  If you’ve seen the musical, you know one of the underlying themes  is to seize the day while you can, because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

No other road, no other day
No day but today

When I first saw this show back in 2001, in those early days of dating Scott, that song touched a nerve.  Simply put, there was some baggage in my life that I needed to address.  I’d shoved the baggage to the back of my emotional closet for years, and I’d gotten by pretty well prior to that point, but with such a good relationship finally at work in my life, I was realizing that it couldn’t stay back there forever.  The last thing I wanted was for this unfinished business to sabotage the beautiful thing that Scott and I were building.  And so I found help, and I started to live the life that I should have been living all along.  “No day but today,” I kept thinking.   There was no longer any point in putting off the happiness that I knew I deserved.

If you are familiar with the history of “Rent,” you know that the theme of “carpe diem” is literally a part of the show’s DNA.  The writer/composer, Jonathan Larson, worked hard for years to bring the show into being.  Then the night before “Rent” had its off-Broadway premiere, he died of an aortic aneurysm.  He was 35 years old.  As he wrote in his own song: No day but today.  Whatever it is, the  show says, don’t put it off.

That message has had a direct and tangible impact on my life.  And when I circle back to the song “Seasons of Love, that anthem  speaks to me on a pretty profound level, too.  I’ve realized that this song poses a question that goes to the heart of what I believe about my faith.  What is the measure of a life?  How should I measure a year? In how much money I make, how many articles I write, how  many essays I grade?

Nope, said that radical guy named Christ.  You should measure it in something else entirely.

How about love?

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