Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fields and Dreams

One of my most favorite movies is "A Field of Dreams".  I saw the last half of it again last week, then took Bubba out for his afternoon walk.  Our "routine" walk takes us past the community baseball field, and, it being baseball season, there was a high school game in progress.  I am fortunate to live in a town with a walking trail which connects the various recreation areas and on this particular day as we meandered past the various fields of trees, grasses, wild flowers, beside the creek which borders the trail, my mind turned to the movie. 

I imagine that most people consider Ray Kinsella (played by Kevin Costner) as the main focus of the lesson of this movie.  If you are not familiar with it, Ray plows over a portion of his corn field at the behest of a voice he hears in his head.  Of course, this places his family in financial distress as the bills aren't reduced by the lower output of his farm.  To add even more stress to Ray's decision to obey this voice, old time baseball players appear on his field, but not everyone can see them.  One person in particular who is blind to the players is his brother-in-law who, coincidentally is a partner in an investment firm which owns the note to Ray's property.  In a pivotal scene, Ray is told that he must sign over sale of the home to the investment firm or risk eviction.  When Ray asks the brother-in-law if the field will be maintained, he is reminded what the value of the land is ($2200 per acre) so obviously there can't be land that does not generate revenue.  As I continued my walk with Bubba, I felt a bit sorry for those who cannot see the value of land that provides quiet trails, fresh smells, bird sounds, and the crack of a bat followed by the cheers and groans of the people watching the game. Let's all hope that the wishes of those who only look at land as the revenue it can produce are always and as strongly countered by the wishes of those who know the incredible value of land that is left to nature.  (Paradoxically, when the brother-in-law finally see the ballplayers he repeatedly tells Ray to keep the land, but we all know that it is because he now sees revenue in the field, not the true meaning that the land is providing.  Such a sad character).

That aside, I have a different perspective of the true lesson of this movie.  I believe that the Archie "Moonlight" Graham character played by Burt Lancaster presents an even more powerful inspiration. Moonlight was a baseball player who only played in one major league game in his career, and only for one inning at that.  He eventually quit baseball, went back to school and became a doctor.  When asked by Ray if he could have one wish, the elder Graham wishes that he could have batted, even once, against a major league pitcher.  And, of course, through the magic of Hollywood, when Ray leaves Doc's small town, he encounters the younger Archie Graham hitchhiking to find a place to play baseball, takes him to his field and gives Archie the chance to play in a real game with the heroes of his time, and to bat against a major league pitcher.

It is at this time, after Moonlight has fulfilled his dream of getting to the plate, that the scene with Ray and the brother-in-law comes to its head.  And it is at this time that Ray's daughter falls from the bleachers and lays, not breathing, on the ground.  Just as Ray's wife is about the run back to the house to call for an ambulance, Archie "Moonlight" Graham crosses over the stark white chalk line along the first base line and turns once again into the elder doctor.  He claps Ray's daughter on the back freeing a piece of hot dog that had lodged in her throat, saving her life.  But he can not go back to his dream life of playing ball, he can't cross back over that first base line to his youth.  In a final tear producing scene, he says goodbye to his now fellow ballplayers, thanks Ray for the chance for some time in the sun and returns to the life that, while it  may not have fulfilled his dreams, it certainly made the lives of those in his small town much the better. 

Archie Graham could have stayed a ballplayer in his youth, perhaps one day making it to the majors.  Archie "Moonlight" Graham could have stayed a ballplayer in Ray's field and played the game for all eternity.  Yet in each case, and especially the latter, Graham chose service to others over personal gain.  While I would not say his were selfless decisions, because clearly he attained much joy and happiness as a doctor, he certainly did not ONLY think of himself.  To me, that is the lesson of the movie, and the lesson we need incorporated into our thinking, personally as well as collectively.  We need less greed, less energy expounded for personal wealth and fame, and more balance that combines personal reward with acts that improves, helps, even inspires the lives of those around us.



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