NEW CASTLE —
Next year will be 25 years since “Field of Dreams” appeared on the big screen.
Although I had seen it just once, that was enough. It became one of my favorite movies, probably in the top five. Maybe even top three.
I saw it at the theater when it arrived here in 1989. I was just a pup. Idealistic and ready for the world.
At that point in my life, “Field of Dreams” tossed a fat one right into my wheelhouse with its powerful messages and imagery.
I watched it again on Saturday night. It was the first time I had seen it since 1989.
I bawled like a baby the first time. Nothing has changed.
Except that it was the first time I watched it with my son.
So it was the first time I had watched it as a father.
There were five powerful lessons I recognized back then that still hold true nearly 25 years later.
And I hope they remain part of my family’s legacy for much longer than that.
1) We all listen to The Voice — It comes in many forms, beginning in childhood. What our parents said to us in the home. How our teachers corrected us. The way we were treated on the playground.
And it continues as we grow. The music we listen to. The books we read. Which cable news network fuels our political passion. The friends we surround ourselves with. Who we choose to put our faith in.
In the film Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, gets three distinct messages from The Voice — “if you build it, he will come” ... “ease his pain” ... “go the distance.”
The Lesson: Be careful which voices you allow to guide you. Most will lead us down a path of despair and emptiness. But there is one who will point us to what’s noble and right and pure. Follow that one, just like Ray Kinsella did.
2) We all live in the past — We just do. Think of any discussion you’ve had in recent days and I guarantee you the past came up. Talking about an idea? It’s either an idea that’s already out there or an idea that arose from something already out there. Talking about a product? It’s either a product that’s already out there or a product that arose from something already out there. I know you’ve never done this, but those who gossip are fueled by something that’s already occurred. The past.
Author Terence Mann, portrayed by James Earl Jones, shares a key line as Kinsella wonders if he should sell his farm after building an incredible baseball diamond in a cornfield.
“People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. ... They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
The Lesson: Be aware of your past. Smile as you remember special moments and people. And then let those memories fuel your desire to create an even more special “now.” Just like Ray Kinsella did.
3) We all see things through different lenses — You’re crazy. I’m crazy. Yeah, maybe, sometimes. But it’s who we are. It’s what moves us to action. It’s what gives us the passion to wake up each morning and start our days.
But what you might think is crazy, others might think is a great idea. What drives you to start a new venture might bore someone else to tears.
Let me give you an example. You walk to your car tomorrow morning and it’s raining. The farmer is ecsatic. But you? Not so much. You were headed to the amusement park with your kids.
Same rain. Different perspective.
In “Field of Dreams,” pretty much everyone thought Ray Kinsella was nuts for destroying his crops and creating a ballfield where a cornfield once produced his livelihood. But he kept the ballfield anyway.
The Lesson: Maybe it’s time to look at our ordinary lives in extraordinary ways. Who says a phone can’t be a computer AND a camera? Not Steve Jobs. Just because farms have been used to produce crops for hundreds of years, doesn’t mean a couple of baseball teams can’t battle it out under the lights in the same space. Sometimes, it’s not enough just to try harder. Sometimes, we need to try different. Just like Ray Kinsella did.
4) We all long for adventure — Don’t you wake up some mornings and feel as if there’s something more? Do you ever feel as if you’ve been MADE for more?
In the film, Terence Mann is a former 1960s activist who has chosen to seclude himself inside a small Boston studio. Kinsella, however, implores him to come out of hiding, “go the distance” and live for a purpose greater than his own comfort and safety. Mann then becomes Kinsella’s biggest cheerleader as a crazy idea becomes a beautiful reality.
The Lesson: If you’re constantly longing to do more and be more — maybe there IS something more for your life. It might not entail moving across the country or becoming a monk in Tibet. But it may mean taking a deeper look at your passions, what excites you and what angers you. You just might find more of yourself in there. Ray Kinsella did. So did Terence Mann.
5) We all have “connector” moments in our relationships — For you, it might be lunch with a friend. It might be a tea party with your daughter. It might be a visit with your grandmother in the nursing home. It might be a beer with your buddies.
But for dads, there are few connections stronger than playing catch with your boy.
My son is really into baseball right now. Not quite as hooked as he is on fishing, but he loves the game.
And so we play often. I’ll catch as he pitches. I’ll toss him grounders and pop-ups. We’ll pretend to turn double-plays.
The hot summer nights have lured those in our neighborhood to take a walk at dusk. We live in a cul-de-sac and lots of people turn around near our home.
As my son and I toss a baseball around on the street, we’ve been interrupted often by parents of older children.
“Oh, that brings back memories,” they say.
“You don’t now how fortunate you are.”
“Enjoy these special moments.”
“You’re bringing a tear to my eye.”
There’s something about the simple act of playing catch that pierces the heart. I get it. And I really am relishing these special times for as long as I can.
So how does this relate to “Field of Dreams?”
Earlier in the movie Kinsella reveals to Mann that at age 14 he refused to play catch with his father after a fight between them. They never played again.
There’s a poignant scene near the end of the film where Kinsella reunites with his dead father on the baseball diamond. As they shake hands and part ways for the night, Kinsella stops in his tracks and turns around.
Choked up, he calls out: “Hey, Dad. You wanna have a catch?”
“I ... I’d like that,” his father responds.
The two then toss the ball back and forth, blanketed by stirring music. There’s not a word uttered between them, but they know.
And so do we.
The Lesson ...
•Ray built it ... and he came.
•Ray went the distance. ... and it was well worth the effort.
•Ray asked to play a simple game of catch ... and eased his pain.
My dad died shortly before I saw the film for the first time. Playing catch was a key connector in our relationship.
For years I declined to watch “Field of Dreams” because of that scene. Because I just couldn’t watch a father and son play catch without breaking down.
The connection was just too deep.
Until I watched it again with my son on Saturday night.
Like Ray, I finally went the distance.
Was it heaven?
No, it was still Iowa.
But like Ray, it eased my pain.
And a new, even deeper, connection was made.
(To follow Tim Kolodziej on Twitter, CLICK HERE.)