Survival of the Human Spirit

But as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, rites, labors, sleepless nights, hunger, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute

-2 Corinthians 6: 4-7

While reading the bible for class yesterday, I came across this scripture and it perfectly explains what it means to be human. It connects to this idea of the human spirit because it talks about despite hardships and suffering in life, God’s power would allow us to thrive in those kind of situations. Humans are very vulnerable and can easily get hurt, but if you trust in the Lord, the sufferings and hardships will be easier to deal with. This passage talks about despite hardships and sufferings, there is always knowledge, patience, holiness of spirit, strong love, truthful speech and the power of God. Life is a precious gift that can easily get wasted away. We have to understand why suffering exists and part of that reason is to let God’s glory shine through us.

This entire concept of the human spirit in this particular passage fully reminded me of “Les Mis”. That musical is filled with multiple hardships, misery, and death, but each character manages to thrive even if they are not always happy with their life. On top of the suffering, there is also compassion, hope, humanity, sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption. These two concepts of suffering and spirituality make “Les Mis” what it is. The way in which these two concepts come together in the show is something special. Both of them show up in the prologue. The suffering starts in the opening, but at the same time, the convicts are talking about how God does not seem to be in their life. That is the first time we hear about God, but the first time that spirituality truly shows up is in the bishop scene. Throughout the show, the candlesticks that the bishop gave Valjean represent compassion, forgiveness, and hope, and they remind Valjean of the kindness the bishop showed him. Even at the death scenes, there is a sense of spirituality because most of the characters do not die alone, but are with someone who gives them comfort and compassion. I think this is why “Les Mis” is about the survival of the human spirit. It shows how people manage to thrive in a broken society and shows how vulnerable humans are.

Because “Les Mis” is about the survival of the human spirit, it truly makes sense why the musical moves people at such a deep level because the human spirit lives deep in us and the human spirit truly touches the heart. Because life is dealing with the human spirit so much, people are able to connect and relate to the story.

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The journey of musicals through the eyes of comedy

In a lot of ways, my journey of musicals is basically a journey of the comedies. I know that it might seem like I am leaving some musicals out, but I am not. I say that due to experience  because I have seen comedies develop over a long period of time.

My journey of musicals started in elementary school. The comedies started the journey of them and are still growing. In elementary school, I saw the Disney musical movies of Lion King, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. In that time period, I also enjoyed Sound of Music and Annie. At the time period, Annie was my favorite musical. At that point, I did not know that later I would develop a passion for musicals. It was not until I saw Wicked on Broadway where my love for musicals would be sparked. At that time I was twelve and I would be able to understand musicals better.

All because of this, I felt like all musicals would be comic because it was all that I had known. Some of the musicals I fell in love with in middle and high school were non-stage musicals. They are shows such as Enchanted and the different High School Musical movies. In High School, I would learn about Hairspray and Mamma Mia. Even through high school, all musicals still remained comic despite knowing that tragedies are a part of theatre, but once again there was no proof.

All because of the shows I grow up with, I realized what some of the most common emotions were. They were excitement, joy, love, and sad, but only one of them was felt at a very basic level. I would realize that musicals are known for spectacle, dance, fun costumes and lavish sets. That is all I had known grown up. The changes were quite small, but would mean so much more later on.

The last year all musicals were comic was in 2011. In the Fall of 2012, I started to fall in love with Rent. That was the same year I watched the movie musical of Les Mis. When I realized that there are tragic musicals, I did not know how to handle it. At first, the comedies were not that strong and I was confused about what just happened. Eventually the comedies would remain strong even if most musicals are comedies. That is why it seems unusual  that my journey of musicals is like the journey of the comedies. It seems like I am leaving them off especially because of the importance of Les Mis.

All just because comedies started the journey, it is why I see the journey of musicals like a journey of the comedies. Because comedies had to shift from all to most, I had to think of comedies differently. Because Les Mis made me analyze a musical at such a deep level, I started to think of comic musicals at a more insightful level. I started to notice that comedies have a dark side and noticed that it was easier to pick up the negative emotions, but they still are hard to find in a comedy.

All because of what I grew up with, I know that most musicals are comedies. But at first, I felt like all musicals were comedies. I hope that most musicals remain comic and stay strong no matter what. I cannot wait to see what the comedies have to offer in the future. I do not want the tragedies to catch up to the comedies which is near impossible. As long as the comedies grow in number at the same rate they have always grown than most musicals would remain comic.

Just to wrap things up, the journey of musical is basically a journey of the comedies because of how long they have been a part of my life.The comedies have reached a massive number of shows that musicals were always have a large amount of comedies. I still want the tragedies to grow in number, but as of right now one of the main places tragedy can grow is in the comedies. However, Les Mis is the only tragedy that has truly grown since I first saw the movie. If it wasn’t for my knowledge of the comedies, the tragedies would not have been able to grow.

My Disney Experience

Over Spring Break, I attended a Disney Leadership Experience to Disney World in Orlando Florida. We attended two leadership classes, which would take us behind the scenes to learn about important leadership skills that will be useful later on. The first class in HollyWood Studios was basically about Leadership Strategies and the second class was in Magic Kingdom and was dealing with the culture of Disney. Each of the classes took up three hours and the rest of the trip, we were free to do what we want at Disney.

The first class, “Leadership Strategies”, was dealing with different kinds of leaders and how communication barriers can get in the way. I learned about four different kinds of leaders and I found that I am more like a visionary and opportunist leader because my dream job is to start a theatre for those living in poverty and below. Theatre is a place where you must be able to see the big picture along with the smaller details and at the same time, you must be willing to take risks. We talked about what can happen if you run into a communication barrier. One time we had to guess what our partner was doing, but the problem was she was not allowed to speak. The same thing happened where we had to design something for a dog company and we all picked one leader. But once again the leader was not told what product was to be made. Seeing that communication barriers can exist in leadership makes me realize that being a leader is harder than it seems and takes a take of experience. One part of this trip was spent walking in a costume section of Disney World, which made me love all the handwork put into the character costumes more and shows me that whenever they make a new costume, it has to be made just right because a kid knows when something is wrong with the costume.

The second class, “Cultural of Excellence”, taught us more about the culture of Disney. The initial question was “are you creating a culture at Gardner Webb?”.  They wanted us to understand how their beliefs/values, standard of excellence, heritage/traditions, and storytelling reflected the culture of Disney. Out of all of these, storytelling is Disney’s strongest. They show storytelling everywhere including on the rides. Walking up to the castle, I had to find elements that represent storytelling with a partner. We both agreed that the castle was the strongest element. The different groups eventually discussed what they found relating to their aspects. Everyone agreed that storytelling is one of Disney’s biggest strengths. As part of the class, everyone was required to ride the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. We had to pay attention to how the ride uses storytelling to get the guests involved in the story. Throughout the ride, you saw the seven dwarves and the different jewels along with Snow White and the Queen. By the end of the class, we had to think about the things we learned in terms of our college. Based on the elements of culture at Disney World, we had to choose the area that Gardner Webb had to improve on the most and the majority said that beliefs and values needed the most work. They use a stop, add, and continue method. It means what will stop, what will replace it, and what will be continued. Everyone agreed about Dimensions and that it needs to be more accessible. We feel as if the topics are sometimes irrelevant.

Most of the trip happened outside of the two three hour Disney Leadership classes. That meant we could truly get a full Disney experience. The classes made me look at Disney differently. It added something to the experience because we got to understand the culture of Disney World. Because I am young at heart and am a fan of Disney, I felt like a five year old kid. We had breakfast with Lilo, Stich, Mickey, and Pluto and dinner with Pooh/ Eyore/Piglet/Tigger, dinner with Mickey/ Pluto/Chip/Dale, dinner with Prince Charming/Cinderella/ Step-Mom/Step-Sisters and dinner with Mulan/Belle/Ariel/ Snow White. Outside of meals, I met Chewy, Tinkerbell, Donald Duck, Anna, and Elsa. Out of all the characters, I loved meeting Anna and Elsa the most because they are my favorite Disney characters and really love Frozen. Thinking of Frozen, I got to attend a Frozen Sing-Along, two parades, and other exciting things. I got to go on the Kilimanjaro Safari, Festival of the Lion King, TeaCups, StarTours and other attractions. Riding on StarTours made up for Soaring being temporarily closed in Epcot. StarTours is basically like riding in one of the StarWars starships. The Festival of the Lion King is like an aerobatic show and the songs from the movie are being sung.I ended up getting a number of souvenirs which are a stuffed Sven, stuffed princess Minnie, stuffed socerer Mickey,  blue “Let it Go” cap, Olaf mug, pink cheetah mouse ears, and a Walt Disney World T-Shirt.

Outside of the classes, I learned other valuable skills such as patience and navigation. Those were the only moments we were not with our chaperones. We are with at least one other student. Miranda and I had to figure out how to navigate the different parks and how to hop from park to park. Sometimes we had to speed race to get somewhere due to the time, but sometimes would get lost on the way. Outside of reading the map, we would also ask for directions. We had to figure out what we wanted to do outside of the fast passes.

Being at Disney shows how much of a Disney fan you are. Disney means a lot to me because I grew up with it. I understand the greatness of the old Disney musical movies and the new Disney musical movies. I still love “Beauty and the Beast”, “Lion King”, and the Pixar films such as “Finding Nemo”, “Lilo and Stich”, and “Monsters INC”, etc. It is hard to believe that the Disney musical movies are part of the origin of my love for musicals. All because of this trip, I realized that I want to see “Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” again because I have seen them before, but have no memory of seeing them.

Future of Musicals

Here is what I hope happens with musicals for the future. I want new musicals to become a part of my life. I want to discover new things that a musical can be capable of. I want the emotions to continue to get stronger in current musicals and newer ones. There are certain musicals which I hope I continue to love for many years to come. I want the comedies to remain strong no matter what happens. They had to learn to work with tragedies, which is very difficult, but somehow they managed to stay strong.

Luckily, there is a small amount of tragedies, but one of them truly changed my life for good. It tested me on everything I knew about musicals. That same musical did that because it showed me that the emotions have more to offer than what they had to offer before and allowed me to analyze musicals even deeper. I am talking about “Les Mis”, a tragic inspirational musical dealing with unrequited love, broken dreams, lots of death, humanity, sacrifice, love, compassion, hope, forgiveness, and redemption. All because of my obsession with the musical, I learned a lot from it. I learned how to analyze musicals at a deep level because I always wondered why the show is so uplifting. Because the show touches me at a deep level, it is important to understand why the show has that ability. It has to do with the power of the story and the songs. I do want more tragedies to become a part of my life, but I want most musicals to remain comic.

It is hard to believe that there was a time when every single musical was a comedy. However, musicals are better when most musicals are comic. It shows that musicals really are because it proves that comedies have a dark side. I have lots of hope for the future of musicals. I know the number of comedies will continue to grow and so will the number of tragedies. I cannot believe I thought I would hate tragedies, but learning to love “Les Mis” has showed me that there is more than a tragedy than sadness like I originally thought. All because of big changes, musicals have become more truthful, insightful, emotional, and deeper than ever before. In order for musicals to switch from all musicals being comic to most musicals being comic, the comedies had to reinterpreted and become reborn. I have seen big changes happening to new comedies and comedies that have already become a part of my life. I am able to find the negative emotions better than ever before and I quickly find a more dark nature. New kinds of spectacle have been used and different kinds of characters started to exist.

The transition is still happening because tragedies are a fresh part of my life. The main reason why I want most musicals to remain comic is due the fact that comedies have been part of my life since the beginning and whenever I think of what a musical should be, I think of the comedies. In my opinion, musicals should have spectacle, dance, and have positive and negative emotions, but overall I should be able to connect to the material. That is what really matters and the strongest emotions are joy, love, and excitement because they allow musicals to be the best they can be. It is amazing how musicals can change in the most unexpected ways and that is when musicals tend to improve the most. There are more emotions than ever before and they are felt at a more deeper level. Not all musicals have the ability to touch me deeply because sometimes I am only touched at the surface, which is okay to me. I want an amazing blend of musicals in order for a nice balance between happy and sad musicals, which is why I am glad pure fun musicals exist.

But than again, I do not fully know what the future of musicals will be like. I know that unexpected things will continue to exist. They are shocking at first, but you slowly get used to it. Sometimes it is as simple as a fresh kind of spectacle or a different kind of character. An example of that are the circus elements in “Pippin”, which is a kind of spectacle I never knew could exist. Sometimes it is more complicated than something that is simple. For example, “Les Mis” showed me a side of emotions that I never thought was possible. I had no idea my soul could have moved so deeply and that songs could make me tear up. I never thought a tragedy would have that kind of power or depth. I will just let the changes happen as long as most musicals remain comic.

Discovering “Les Mis” through the Bible

As a way of figuring out why “Les Mis” is inspirational, I always find lines in the bible that represent what the show is. I know that the musical is very sad, but it is important for me to know why the show is as inspirational as it because it makes the experience even better. It is a story of sacrifice, love, forgiveness, humanity, compassion, hope, and redemption.

“For the spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirt that it within?”- 1 Corinthians 2:10-11

I found that passage in the bible yesterday and made me connect to “Les Mis”. The show is ultimately about the survival of the human spirit. When I first saw that on the “Les Mis” page, I did not know what that truly meant. When I saw that, I really had to figure out the survival of the human spirit means. I think that phrase can mean a number of things. In my opinion, the survival of the human spirit is how to thrive in life no matter what. The human spirit lives in everyone and it is about how to keep that spirit alive. It refers to what  it means to be human and “Les Mis” truly represents that.

“Les Mis” takes place during a very dark time in France. It takes place after the the French Revolution and France was still recovering from that. During this time period, there were multiple rebellions and revolutions, an unstable government, and lots of injustice and misery. All of this is reflected in “Les Mis” at some point. Jean Valjean faces injustice for an unfair sentence in jail just for stealing a loaf of bread. He got sentenced for five years and fourteen extra for trying to escape. Than there is the unfair treatment of women during that time period, which is shown through the tragic character of Fantine, who went on a downward spiral after she got fired all because she an illegitimate child, which sounds unfair. The rebellion situation was shown through Enjorlas and the students when they started a uprising after a death of a very important man in the government. In addition, you see the condition of the poor during songs such as “At the End of the Day” and the second version of “Look Down”.

“Les Mis” speaks directly to the soul, which is why the emotions are as strong as they are. The musical teaches you what it means to be human and how you can rise above your background. This is shown through characters such as Jean Valjean and Eponine. Jean Valjean was released from prison with a hardened heart and was filled with so much anger and hatred toward society. No one would give him a chance because he was an ex-convict but was taken in by a compassionate bishop, who taught him the ways of the Lord and after this Valjean reflects on his current situation and decides to become a better person even if it means breaking parole. Time passes and he is now a successful businessman and is filled with so much spirituality, compassion, and kindness. He shows compassion towards the poor especially towards Fantine. By the end of the story, Valjean has become like a saint.

Even Eponine rose above her background, which is quite surprising considering who her parents are. The Thenardiers are Eponine’s parents and they are greedy, abusive, cruel, and mean. Once the family descends into poverty, they start mistreating Eponine more and they turn into criminals. But somehow, Eponine does not grow up to be like her parents. She does not want to be involved in her parent’s schemes, but she has to in order to survive. It was through her love for Marius that allows her to not be like her parent’s. She puts his needs first before her own even if it hurts her more and more because the love is unrequited.

Another quote in the bible that represents the show is “those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light”. This is very similar to the lyrics “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”. The musical has a sense of hope in it even though it is always hard to find. There is hope when you see people rising above their backgrounds and through the students.

There are several times in the musical where God is mentioned, which starts in the opening song. The thing I love about “Les Mis” is how inspirational it is despite the show being depressing. Because you see the characters thriving in difficult situations, it gives you hope for your life. It touches your soul in a way that is very inspirational and that feeling makes you want to continue watching the musical. It is hard to believe I can learn about this musical through the bible. But it does make sense because the show has a large connection to spirituality and there are perfect passages, which represent the show. In fact, the more I learn about it, the more inspirational the show gets and the less sad it appears. It will always be tragic in my eyes because there will always be the death and the misery, but in desperate times, there is still compassion.This show has meant so much to me and has impacted me in ways that I never thought possible.

“To love another person is to see the face of God”- Les Mis

Disney Musicals

It is hard to believe that Disney was part of the beginning of my musical journey. In elementary school, I watched “Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, and “Little Mermaid”. I remember watching others, but these stand out from all of them. Disney is famous for being musical and the songs make these memorable.

I am now about to go on a Disney Leadership Program during Spring Break. On Sunday at 5:00, I am leaving to Disney in student vans. We are driving all the way up and part of it will be spent sleeping. Not only do we get to experience the wonder of all the parks, we get to attend two leadership classes. The leadership classes are not classes like you think. They take you behind the scenes of Disney and show you different department. You get involved in team building activities. The classes are at Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom and each class lasts three hours. The rest of the time, everyone is allowed to experience Disney. I have always been young at heart and Disney means so much to me. I get to meet Anna and Elsa, who are two of my favorite Disney princesses. I am attending some of the parades and going to a Frozen sing-along. I am spending time with a new friend of mine who is also a Disney and musical fan.

I knew this trip was something I had to do before I graduate from Gardner Webb. It will be a cool opportunity and will look perfect on a resume. What fun to attend Disney and at the same time, will get the opportunity to gain leadership skills through the eyes of Disney. I cannot wait to create so many memories from this.

Doors opened in musicals

“Some Doors Close Forever, others open in most unexpected places”. This quote comes from Game of Thrones, and I discovered the quote through one of my friends. This reminds me so much of my journey with musicals. This quote is the most true in the year 2012 when comedies started to go through an unexpected transition. When that happened, a door was closed forever, and a bigger door was opened.

This was the time when musicals had to transition from all musicals being comedies to most musicals being comedies. I grew up with comedies and did not want anything to change, but feel so proud that it did. I did not see that coming at all and I did not want that to happen. I wanted all musicals to stay comedies because I loved that world, but I gained so much from this new world.

The new world was opened in December of 2012 when I first saw the musical movie, “Les Mis”. Coming in, I did not know what the title meant and only was familiar with one song. I had no idea that a tragedy was about to become such an important part of my life. I discovered “Les Mis” was a tragedy right after the first character died. When I realized that I went into a state of shock, which covered up a lot of the emotions in the movie. I was so in shock that I was watching a tragedy and actually enjoying it. My mind did not know to respond to that. My soul was feeling the emotions, but I was not. That seems like an odd description, but it was so true.

After leaving the theatre, I had “Do You Hear the People Sing” stuck in my middle. Besides that song, I only remembered “Master of the House”, and “I Dreamed a Dream”. I went to the movie mainly to hear “I Dreamed a Dream” because I heard that song before and was moved by the scene in the movie. Because I was in a state of shock, I was not able to feel the emotions deeply or truthfully. After the movie, I did not know if I wanted to watch the movie again or see the stage show, but something told me that I need to learn more about the musical. Obviously my soul wanted more of “Les Mis”. I decided to request the songs through Pandora. In addition, I looked up information about the time period, Victor Hugo, and history of the musical. Eventually I became a true fan of the musical and decided to watch the movie again to make sure I still liked it. But this time around, I cried at least once and the emotions were stronger. It is musical that is meant to move the soul and allow you to dig deep within the musical. I eventually asked myself, “why do I always feel uplifted at the end?” That question allowed me to search deeply inside the musical and try to figure out what it at its core.

Overall, “Les Mis” is a story of sacrifice, love, humanity, hope, forgiveness, and redemption and that is why you feel uplifted each and every time. The love I had for the show would soon turn into an obsession and I knew I had to see the stage show. As I listened to the songs more and more and loved the story more and more, the more inspirational the story became and the less sad it seemed. As I continued to listen to the songs, the reactions just continued to grow and now multiple songs can reduce me to tears and I am not ashamed of it. The storyline is so powerful that it deeply moves your soul and the experience is hard to describe.I saw the stage show four times already- three at community college and once in the West End. All because of this musical, a new door was opened for the negative emotions and made those emotions much more real.

The door that was closed forever was all musicals being comic and the door that was opened was a world of comedies and tragedies. On top of that, musicals became more truthful, insightful, and deeper. All because of one musical, a door was closed forever and a new one was opened unexpectedly. I was not excepting to love a tragedy and fully felt like all musicals would stay comic. Understanding the comedies allows me to understand musicals as a whole because they started the journey. Because comedies were no longer alone, it allowed the comedies to show a different side. Because of this shift, it is easier to notice the negative emotions of them and how they have a dark side. I am still in the middle of this transition because the tragedies are still fresh in my life. Despite there being both tragic and comic musicals, there was a door that was not closed forever. That door was the joy, love, and excitement that comes when I see a musical. There are so many ways to interpret musicals, but I highly value the emotions of joy, love, and excitement more than anything. They are the emotions that are in each and every scene no matter what emotion I am currently feeling because they will never give up on you. When I am feeling heartbroken or sad or any negative emotion, joy is still there because I am still able to enjoy the show. There are times when I wish all musicals were comic again, but that door is closed forever and when that happens, I quickly realize what I gained.