Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fields of Dreams

ã By Jack Bogut

I am in favor of nostalgia. 

It’s a way of looking over our shoulders and finding things in our lives we’d like to see or do again, a way of looking around the trouble and turmoil in our past and recalling things because they were good.  Nostalgia also allows us to use the generous side of our personalities, that part of our mental makeup that makes us want to share the best of our experiences. A bonus is, when we engage in nostalgia, it reflects well on both parties:
Ø  On the storyteller because he or she ventures something of themselves at the risk of rejection in the telling.  That risk has value.
Ø  On the listener because it demonstrates a polite tolerance of the unknown at the risk of boredom.  That is also a worthy consideration.
            The greatest joy in nostalgia comes when both storyteller and listener discover and realize they have something in common, that life is much more the same for all of us than we thought.  Even though we didn’t grow up in the same place or do the same things; even though we come from completely different backgrounds, the common thread that runs through all of us is that we recognize and care about the same human responses to life.  Perhaps that’s why we reach out and touch others with stories of what we’ve done in hopes that we’ll feel something good together. When we do that, we create not only a picture of the past, but the ingredients necessary for hopes and dreams of the future. I think nostalgia is the basis for all story telling—an art form.
            Here’s a case in point: Even if you’ve never played baseball, watch very few ballgames, have never been to Iowa and don’t care a whit about farming, you can still understand Ray Kinsella’s dream to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield.
            We all know how impractical dreams can be because they fly in the face of the logical, sensible part of our emotional makeup that, through experience, teaches us to play it safe, to survive, and maybe even prosper.
            But it’s not safety that makes us happy. Even though being safe can make us content, it’s our dreams that make us joyful and want to share that with others. Dreams represent our plans for the future and hopes for tomorrow.
            Dreams represent our optimism. Dreams are those possibilities just over the horizon or around the corner or tomorrow or next week or next year. Dreams are what keep us going through all the necessary routines and chores of life.
            It’s the dreamer in us that creates the fun, makes the noise, and allows us to pretend that we can do something in our minds that we don’t have a prayer of doing in real life.  It’s also the dreamer in us that makes us admire other people who do things well, because, in each of us, tucked away in that admiration is a small, personal fantasy—that if we were only little taller, a little shorter, a little younger, a little older, a little faster, a little more brave, a little different, we could do it too.
            In the movie, “Field Of Dreams,” Ray Kinsella heard a voice in the twilight that told him to plow his Iowa cornfield under and build a baseball diamond on it. “Build it and they will come,” the voice said, and, instead of making himself a stiff drink or having his head examined, Ray not only listened to the suggestion but had the courage to divulge it to his wife.
            Even though her practical side said it was a fairly dumb thing to do, Ray’s spouse was wise enough to recognize the importance of a person’s dreams and, even against her better judgement, went along with it. 
            When the tall corn was plowed under and the field was completed, baseball players, long dead and gone, started walking out of the shadows between the rows and playing ball, asking if this was heaven.  Ray told them,
“No, it’s Iowa.”
            In the final scene, his brother-in-law is trying to convince him to sell the farm or the bank will repossess it in the morning. Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) is eloquently urging him not to sell as he says:
            “The people will come Ray.  They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom.  They’ll turn into the driveway and not know why they’re doing it.  They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.
            “‘Of course we won’t mind if you look around,’ you’ll say, ‘It’s only twenty-dollars a person.’
            “And they’ll pay it without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they seek.  And they’ll walk out to the bleachers and sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon.  They’ll find they have reserved seats along one of the baselines just like when they were children and cheered their heroes. 
            “They’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters.  Memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.  People will come, Ray. 
            “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, only to be re-built and erased again.  But Baseball has marked the times.
            “This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds us of all that once was good...and it could be again.
            “Oh, people will come, Ray.  They most definitely will come!”

            And so they did.

In the movie, the lines of traffic were backed up for miles. Even after dark their headlights glowed far back over the horizon and poked into the night as they drove to the field in search of something they once had and misplaced or lost, a chance to light candles in their memories, and build fires to warm their futures.
            To this day, people by the thousands still drive to that movie location, that field in Iowa, to play ball and look into the rows of corn, half expecting to see someone from their own past they had watched and admired, someone they thought dead and gone, walk out and join them.
            When you and I share things we’ve done in our lives, it’s like inviting someone to take a look at where they’ve been and what they’ve done in their own lifetimes. We give them a place where, with small mental adjustments, they can put their own faces on people, see their own streets and houses in the towns, smell their own bakeries, walk their own sidewalks, thumb through their own mental albums and touch their own pasts.
            And each ”Field of Dreams” we share grows the seeds for another field full of the flowers of memory, and another, and another, and another.

We plant and harvest by telling stories.

            Until next time…

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