The Spirit is Willing, The Flesh is Weak

The summer I will always remember as THAT summer, was the summer of As Tall as Lions, Pabst Blue Ribbon and self-discovery. I was working as an assistant stage manager at a local professional theatre that was supposed to be a foot in the door to a lucrative cross-country career, had I not squandered the opportunity by quitting. I told them it was because there was a lot going on in my life and I needed a break. However, truth be told, it was because the shows they were producing didn’t speak to me.

In quitting, I told myself that I was completely giving up my career in theatre. I wanted nothing more to do with the art form.

Instead, I started hanging out with a group of guys– 2 of whom I still call best friend and 1 that I call husband. We’d get high, listen to records, have raging parties (literally raging with bonfires made of computer parts, smashed household items and books we found in the basement) and generally prove to be (kind and gentle) menaces to society.

For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t have a job or school or any real responsibility. This left me with a copious amount of time on my hands. I lost 70 pounds. I went on a lot of walks. And I thought.  A lot.

Like many of privilege who don’t need to worry about their next meal, healthcare or any of the basic necessities, my thoughts turned to spirituality. This, of course, was aided by one of nature’s mind-expanding substances– magic mushrooms. My goal for the summer– a forgotten goal of mine from childhood– became: help people. I tried many different paths, but each was a dead end.

During one particularly powerful trip, I began to see a connection between movement and spirituality. Movement is a way to unlock deep-seated memories and is a powerful tool for personal transformation. This would be the method Kyle (the 1 that I call husband) and I would use to help people. Theatre, a religion we were both very familiar with, would be our vehicle.

This was the seed– the Vision–that has since grown into Heads Up Productions.

Admittedly, however, we forget the seed that took root in our hearts. Instead, we get bogged down with the day-to-day operations: raising money, supporting a group of people, finding space, growing the company… the list is endless.

Since Heads Up is no more than an extension of me, this loss of Vision for the company had some pretty dire effects on my psyche. It began with the feeling of being dissatisfied with our co-workers, morphed into a dislike for our work, and catapulted into full-blown addiction that I am only beginning to come out of.

Yet the only thing to greet me is a question: How do you maintain connection to your Vision, while keeping up with your responsibilities and the necessities of this day and age?

How do you stay true to your Vision when there’s a giant corporation who (because, you know, it’s a person) goes by the name Sallie Mae breathing down your neck, asking for your partner’s $700 a month, especially when his mother cosigned for the loans and, even if we could afford this payment, it stands to continue for the next 20 – 30 years of our lives?

Yet, according to our historical accounts, most of the greats– people we would call Visionaries– faced their own challenges. Stanislavski and Grotowski faced political oppression. Kerouac and Ginsberg faced cultural oppression. Jesus faced religious oppression. Though I’m pretty sure Kyle’s mom is more fearsome than Stalin, Communism, 1950’s sensibilities, Philistines and the Roman Empire combined.

Grouped among these Visionaries, I am severely wanting. Not in force of Vision but in force of Will. “…Will power directs energy and energy, in turns, acts upon matter,” quotes the book The Essence of Self-Realization: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yoganada. ”Matter, indeed, is energy; the stronger the Will the greater the force of energy and the greater consequence the energy’s impact on material events. A strong Will, especially if combined with awareness of the cosmic energy, can affect miracles. It can cure diseases and make a person well. It can endure success in any undertaking… Even unenlightened human beings shape their destinies more than they themselves realize according to the way they use their power of Will… Action originates in the Will.”

Comparatively, I have allowed my Will to be thwarted by perceived cultural messages, addictions, compulsions, scatter-brainedness and, frankly, by sheer laziness. If advertisers, impulse purchases at the checkout line or the lure of new technology couldn’t seduce us, corporations wouldn’t make much money. And since corporations rule much of modern society, society has no interest in helping us– in fact just the opposite. Our culture teaches us– nay raises us– to be weak-willed.

But we have a choice. A choice that exists everyday, in every moment. That choice is part of the Power of Now. How many times do we say, “I’ll start my diet next week” or “I’ll finish that project tomorrow” or “I don’t really have the money but I’ll buy that anyway”? In those moments we are caving to our cultural conditioning and actively sublimating our Will. I know how hard it can be to resist, but each choice we make in the Now either further strengthens or weakens our Will.

And, sometimes, it requires a major undertaking– like a Vision Quest– to get our Will running smoothly. Living for 3 days in the wild, far away from civilization, without shelter, fasting, completely alone, searching for a Vision, sounds like a test of Will.

Will I pass?

I guess Will find out.

-Benjamin Rexroad
Managing Artistic Director

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Comments

  1. Martin Cosentino says:

    Mr. Rexroad, I have seen your posts several times and I always seem to draw the same conclusions – that you are a pampered, self-indulgent,s directionless dreamer who hasn’t the focus to tie his own shoes. Now these may be harsh words, but I have garnered them from several exposures to your purposeless essays comparing yourself to Jesus, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Stanislavski, and others. I have yet to hear you speak purposefully and directly about the supposed theatre work for which you have a presumed vision – that also being blatantly absent in any of your rantings here. Nowhere have you defined a goal, or your vision, and the work IT WILL REQUIRE to achieve it. That you are noticeably lacking in any substantial matter but telling everyone else who WORKS who ALREADY KNOWS what it takes to accomplish ‘matters of consequence.’ I strongly suggest you STOP advertising your weakness, which no one is interested in, and set about finding a purpose in your otherwise vacant existence.

    What I may have accomplished here is to make you angry enough at my having the balls to tell you what the real deal is, and MAYBE, if your weak will gets strong enough, you will go out and DO SOMETHING about your ‘lack of vision.’Just my knowing that this might happen is in itself an encouragement. And the next time you shamelessly display your incorrigible faults, add some achievements that you can honestly feel you have accomplished. That will be worth more than all the words you have wasted here, telling us someting everyone already knows.

    • Martin,

      I wrote a longer response to you. But it began to turn into an essay– at least in length.

      I think you have a misunderstanding of what, exactly, lead to these last two essays. (For example, did you know that I work 3 part-time jobs– I need the flexibility to make my own schedule to do the things I need to do to run a theatre company– to fund this theatre company from my own pocket? I have since Heads Up has started– and we’ve been able to produce over 12 shows in 2.5 years. For which I have directed 7 and produced all but 1. One of which was a world premiere at Big Box by a local Akron playwright. And one of which launched an African-American theatre group in Akron. All but two of which were able to pay the actors– but not me– involved. We’ve also been able to conduct a number of workshops– including one we took to area schools to teach about racism, discrimination and bullying. We do a lot of volunteer work. And work with children. Also, whether YOU like it or think it has value, we’ve been producing Heads Up Arts Radio as a way to help artists in the NeOhio area spread word about their work and about their shows. Paying out of pocket to do it.)

      However, instead of explaining it via the comments section of a website, I would like to treat you to lunch or dinner. Maybe I can give you a deeper understanding of what I’m going through, person-to-person. Maybe– hopefully– you’ll be able to provide some advice and guidance, as somebody who has “been there.” (Started a company.) Then, if you still feel that I am “pampered” and “self-indulgent” and that I don’t know the “WORK IT WILL REQUIRE” you’ll at least be able to tell me to my face. Which, I’m sure, would be more satisfying than through a comment.

      If you agree to my suggestion, please email me at benjamin@headsupproductions.net to set up the date and time.

      Thank you!

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