What I Learned from Seussical

Whenever I say, “True, true,” I add, “said the Sour Kangaroo.”

Villain with spectacles on a stick. Major win. Read Horton Hears a Who for details.

Villain with spectacles on a stick. Major win. Read Horton Hears a Who for details. (Although we all know the Wickersham Brothers are the coolest.)

This makes absolutely no sense if you’ve never seen Seussical, a show that essentially puts all of Dr. Seuss’s books in a blender and throws in some glitter for good measure. But it’s a fun habit for me, and it takes me back to my junior year of high school. Which, okay, let’s be real, is not a 100% pleasant place to go back to.

Example: if you watched the Warsaw Community High School cast take their bows at the end of that show, it would be like viewing a slideshow presentation of my teenage awkwardness in relating to others.

There’s the guy who I avoided because I never knew what to say to him. The girl who was my exact opposite in basically every way and who might have been as jealous of me as I was of her. The one who thought I was judging him (maybe I was), the one who looked up to me for no good reason that I could see, the one who couldn’t quite figure me out or was too cool to be my friend or only vaguely knew I existed.

And there was sixteen-year-old me, who had been talked into trying out for a chorus role and felt painfully out of place.

The juniors...there I am off to the right, probably not wanting to be in the picture or something.

The juniors…there I am off to the right, probably not wanting to be in the picture or something.

It was high school, and emotions ran high in theater—onstage and off. So I stood there, painting the set, quietly absorbing (and smirking at) the drama, secretly thinking I could solve everyone’s problems if they would only listen to me.

“You’re just doing this for attention.”

“Guess what? The entire world isn’t actually about you.

“Just stop it!”

I never said any of these things, of course. I never said much at all.

My favorite song in the musical was “Solla Sollew.” It was the ballad that came right after an explosion of loneliness and frustration and misunderstandings. In it, Horton the Elephant and all of the other characters are dreaming of a perfect world that doesn’t include any of those things.

That song was different, somehow. We could feel it. Everything would get a little more solemn for a few moments, until the last note faded off the back of the performing arts center. There would be a kind of melancholy just hanging there, unspoken but very real.

Because we were all having trouble getting to Solla Sollew.

It was high school, of course we were. Everyone was secretly afraid that the fictional characters they played—the ones who spoke their mind and created a plot and did things—were more real than they were. We were all looking for that elusive something that would make us feel like we belonged.

And what sixteen-year-old Amy wanted to yell was, “It’s heaven, guys! That’s the place you’re looking for. Can’t you see it? Isn’t it obvious?”

Of course, I didn’t say that. I never said much at all.

Over the years, I’ve sung myself to sleep with “Solla Sollew” hundreds of times—stilling a mind abuzz with excitement or putting tear-stained worries off until tomorrow. It’s my go-to lullaby because of what it says and what it leaves unsaid.

Listen to it. Maybe you’ll see what I mean.

“If we can get there” reminds me of my long-favorite Bible story: “If you can do anything…” The words of a longsuffering, tired-out faith that can only hope so far. “Sooner or later we’ll find it” has the same note of beautiful frustration found in the stories of the wanderers in Hebrews 11.

And the rest of the song—the mayor’s distant “picture of how it will be,” Horton’s heartjerking “When I get close, it disappears,” and the last wistful “I’ll be home with you”—all of it reminds me that things are broken.

Oh, high school Amy, things are broken. Take your questions there and let them wait respectfully in the times when there are no easy answers. Take your faith there and see it get a bit more serious and less glibly cheerful. Take your judgment there and leave it, please.

Things are broken and people are hurting—and they’re just as complex and worthy of being loved as you are.

“Solla Sollew” doesn’t have all the answers (neither, incidentally, do you, sixteen-year-old Amy). It’s Good Friday, not Easter. It tells us that things are wrong and that we’re longing for something more. You can’t solve that with a simple, “It’s heaven, guys!” or a few self-righteous bits of advice.

Also, Who hair is a wonderful thing.

Also, Who hair is a wonderful thing.

And really, “Solla Sollew” isn’t about heaven at all—after all, the lyrics say, “Maybe it’s something like heaven.” It’s about here. It’s “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s dragging down bits of future perfection wherever we can.

So what does that look like?

It looks like being a peacemaker and weeping with those who weep and loving the losers and never giving up and admitting you’re wrong and taking time to be with God instead of just doing stuff for him.

It looks like the awkward girl in the chorus who finally says something. Who has learned a lot in the past six years, who is a little less convinced of her own rightness, who, if she could go back, might change the advice she would give:

“Their expectations are crushing you…but so are yours.”

“Can you stop talking for a minute? And then, maybe, after being quiet for a while, do you want to really talk? I’ll listen this time.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not understanding—and for not wanting to.”

And now, sometimes, I say these things. And maybe someday one of them will come out like JoJo’s last desperate YOP! that saved the Whos: brave and loud and clear.

Because, somewhere along the way—thankfully, after I learned a little more about grace—I realized that maybe I matter after all. Maybe what I say matters.

And maybe I can bring a little bit of Solla Sollew to the broken things and people around me.

2 comments

  1. I love your post! It’s incredible what God can teach us about ourselves through high school musicals, whether through the people we work with or the songs themselves (“Solla Sollew” is beautiful, btw!)
    I’ve also blogged about things I’ve learned from different musicals (l’ve never seen Seussical, unfortunately, but we did “Beauty and the Beast” my senior year): http://girlygoat.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/15-things-musicals-taught-me-a-change-in-me/
    ~Hope you have a great day :]

    1. Love this! Our choir sang some songs from this musical my senior year as well. I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Drama and especially music have a way at getting at some deep truths.

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