Your Obedient Servant, or, The Sham of Civility

One of the songs in Hamilton that always gets a chuckle out of me is “Your Obedient Servant,” which happens late in Act Two. Hamilton and Burr, once friends and now simmering enemies, exchange a series of increasingly heated letters back and forth that culminate in the two agreeing to a duel. Based on real letters, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song has the two men getting more and more aggressive with each missive but closing out every letter with a return to civility – they sign as “your obedient servant,” and the music switches from a driving beat to chipper and polite strings. The disparity between the anger and the sign-offs gets me every time.

This is civility, and it’s bullshit. The two men, despite all their well-learned politesse, end up in a fatal shoot-out. They adhere to the rules of good taste, and yet one man still bleeds to death when it’s all said and done.

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Right Lying

Jedis and Vulcans both lie like the Buddha.

“There is a story I was once told by a monk that illustrates this. The story goes that the Buddha was doing walking meditation in the forest when he perceived with his “all-seeing eye” an incident about to occur, and planned how to respond to it. A moment later a terrified-looking man ran past. The Buddha then stepped a few feet to the left and waited. A gang of brigands approached and asked, “While standing there, did you see a man run past?”

““No,” replied the Buddha. He was, of course, telling the truth. He had been standing somewhere else when he saw the man run past.”

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