So thanks to constant nudging from the fabulous Gina Ko, I ended up seeing FELA! yesterday. It doesn’t seem enough to say that it was a revelation or that I spent near bout the entirety of the second act in tears. No, to do it justice, I pretty much have to talk about it all week. Yes, seriously — because the thoughts it inspired in me don’t really make sense when presented together.
FELA! has a very interesting structure, in that for a good 4o minutes, you think it’s going to revolve around the last Nigerian-based concert of real-life Nigerian activist/singer Fela Kuti. But then it surprises you by taking on a narrative, and you find that this show isn’t centered around the concert, so much as it is centered around the main dramatic question, which is simply, “Will Fela leave Nigeria?”
This all got me to thinking about refusal of the call. In the Hero’s Journey, there’s always a bit where the hero resist going on a mission, falling in love, entering the karate competition, etcetera, etcetera…
Most people’s real lives don’t fit into a neat hero structure. But I find that refusal of the call is the one act that we all have in common. For example, on my writing journey, I’ve attempted to do many other things outside of writing stories as originally attended. That was refusal of the call. Though I enjoyed and was inspired by my year in Japan, I would call that a 365-day refusal of the call. And I now wonder if pursuing screenwriting wasn’t a seven-year refusal of my true calling. Most writers have a huge refusal of the call in their past — maybe not Jonathan Safron Foer — but it really is shocking how many authors have wanted to write since we were children … and then tried to do something else.
Of course, refusal of the call extends to non-writers as well. I’d go as far to assert that if you don’t have a major refusal of the call that you can point to in your life, then you are probably deep into the process of refusing the call as we speak.
So consider this: are you refusing the call? And also consider this: what would happen if you took that mission, fell in love with somebody you’ve been resisting, entered that competition, OR started writing that book today?