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Nothing Changes


The Fates from the Broadway show Hadestown


In my previous blog post I mentioned how I dislike the reasoning of “That’s just the way it’s always been,” and today I’m going to expand on that idea a bit more with the help of my favorite musical, Hadestown.

 

Hadestown is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (with some aspects of the Hades and Persephone story). If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Orpheus, the premise is that the love of his life, Eurydice, passes away and he goes to the underworld – Hades (or in the musical’s case, Hadestown) – to bring her back to life. Hades, the god of the underworld, doesn’t like the idea of this. Souls from the underworld do not return to the land of the living, it has always been that way, and he’s not about to change that for one person.

 

After receiving this refusal, Orpheus doesn’t know what to do. He risked his life to bring back Eurydice and he was just flatly refused. To rub salt in the wound, the three Fates (gods in their own right in Greek mythos) in the musical version sing the above song, Nothing Changes. Because there is an order that Hades must uphold in Hadestown and one man’s plea isn’t going to change the way things have always been.

 

Here are the lyrics:

Why the struggle, why the strain?

Why make trouble, why make scenes?

Why go against the grain, why swim upstream?

It ain't, it ain't, it ain't no use

You're bound, you're bound, you're bound to lose

What's done, what's done, what's done is done

That's the way the river runs

So why get wet?

Why break a sweat?

Why waste your precious breath?

Why beat your handsome brow?

Nothing changes

Nothing changes, nothing changes

Anyhow

 

I share this piece for the context of the song that immediately follows. Orpheus has been denied and told that this is just the way things are and nothing changes, so why even try? It’s easier to just go along with things and any effort to change things will be futile.

 


Lyrics provided at the end of the blog post


But he doesn’t give in to that. He asks, is that true? Is this really how the world is? Do we really have to listen when those in power insist this is the only way? Is there nothing we can do to change this? And as he asks these questions, the workers in Hadestown hear him, and they realize that Orpheus is right. Just because they’ve been told this doesn’t make it true. Change can happen.

 

This song acts as a rallying cry to those around him, it gives Orpheus the support he needs to go make a change for what he feels the world could be, rather than what it is. And it works. Hades gives Orpheus and Eurydice the chance to leave. Whether they make it or not, well, the story is a tragedy.

 

It’s easier to just accept the way things are, to not struggle and go against the grain. It’s hard work to go out there and try to change things for the better. Things don’t have to stay this way just because they’ve always been this way. This kind of work is also outlined in Jesus’ life throughout the Gospels with his disciples around him, going forth and making changes, changes he knew would bring trouble on him. Jesus wasn’t afraid of going against the grain or swimming up stream.

 

So, is it true? Is this how the world is? Or could the world be better?


"If it's True" Lyrics

[ORPHEUS]

If it's true what they say

If there's nothing to be done

If it's true that it's too late

And the girl I love is gone

If it's true what they say


[ORPHEUS, spoken]

Is this how the world is?


[ORPHEUS]

To be beaten and betrayed and then be told that nothing changes?

It'll always be like this?

If it's true what they say

I'll be on my way


[HERMES, spoken]

And the boy turned to go

'Cause he thought no one could hear

But everybody knows that walls have ears


[HERMES]

And the workers heard him


[WORKERS]

If it's true what they say

 

[HERMES]

With their hammers swinging


[WORKERS]

What's the purpose of a man?


[HERMES]

And they quit their workin'


[WORKERS]

Just to turn his eyes away?


[HERMES]

When they heard him singing


[WORKERS]

Just to throw up both his hands?


[HERMES]

No hammer swinging


[WORKERS]

What's the use of his backbone


[HERMES]

No pickaxe ringin'

 

[WORKERS]

If he never stands upright?


[HERMES]

And they stood and listened


[WORKERS]

If he turns his back on everyone?


[HERMES]

To the poor boy singing


[WORKERS]

That he could've stood beside


[ORPHEUS]

If it's true what they say

I'll be on my way

But who are they to say what the truth is anyway?

'Cause the ones who tell the lies


[WORKERS Chorus]

Ahhhh


[ORPHEUS]

Are the solemnest to swear

And the ones who load the dice


[WORKERS Chorus]

Oooo


[ORPHEUS]

Always say the toss is fair

And the ones who deal the cards


[WORKERS]

Deal the cards


[ORPHEUS]

Are the ones who take the tricks

With their hands over their hearts

While we play the game they fix

And the ones who speak the words


[WORKERS]

Speak the words


[ORPHEUS]

Always say it is the last

And no answer will be heard

To the question no one asks

So I'm askin' if it's true

I'm askin' me and you

And you

And you

I believe our answer matters more than anything they say


[WORKERS]

We stand and listen


[ORPHEUS]

I believe if there is still a will

Then there is still a way


[WORKERS]

We're standing with him


[ORPHEUS]

I believe there is a way

I believe in us together

More than anyone alone


[WORKERS]

We're standing near him


[ORPHEUS]

I believe that with each other, we are stronger than we know


[WORKERS]

We hear him


[ORPHEUS]

I believe we're stronger than they know

I believe that we are many

I believe that they are few


[WORKERS]

We're standing


[ORPHEUS]

And it isn't for the few

To tell the many what is true


[WORKERS]

We understand him


[ORPHEUS]

So I ask you:

If it's true what they say


[WORKERS]

We're standing


[ORPHEUS]

I'll be on my way


[WORKERS]

We're standing


[ORPHEUS]

Tell me what to do


[WORKERS]

We're standing


[ORPHEUS]

Is it true?

Is it true what they say?


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