“Field of Dreams”.
This fairly fluffy piece of film making is now over twenty years old, but tonight it popped into my head as I was engaged, no surprise, in yet another Facebook thread about Wisconsin politics.
One particular comment spurred me to ponder the criticisms of those people in the anti-Walker movement who decry any activity which does not rise to their definition of serious political activity.
The particular comment, an example of many that I’ve read, or heard firsthand, railed against the harm that these “immature” activities cause the movement. In general, the critics state that our allies will be upset and abandon us, our potential fence-sitting supporters will avoid us, and our opponents will gain additional talking points to use against us.
And for some reason I thought of Ray Kinsella, the main character in “Field of Dreams”, who took a chance and built a baseball field in the middle of his family’s cash crop. But, just as quickly, my thoughts darted from the movie’s hero to the filmgoer observing the hero.
What did the movie going public make of this Iowa farmer’s construction project as life mission?
How did you react to Ray when he carved his spiritually inspired ball field out of valuable farmland? Did you think, that’s a colossal waste – he should keep it in corn? Or did you cheer him on in his journey to turn his dream into reality – regardless of the financial and public pressures that should have halted his quixotic quest?
If you’re like most viewers, I would bet that you cheered for him. And in the end, what did your positive thought for Ray, and all that construction work and decimation of cropland lead to?
A lousy game of catch with his dad.
That’s it? Tossing a ball around after dinner? That’s not very practical. What a precious waste of time. Where’s the ROI - Return on Investment? Think of the things he could, or should, have done.
Ray could have conferred with University of Iowa agriculture experts to gather information about how to increase his crop yields while better managing his farm’s thin layer of productive soil. He could have become more active in his local Ag co-op, and joined their phone and letter writing campaigns to their Congressional representatives, seeking legislation for stronger price supports for corn. And he could have, and definitely should have, avoided making a spectacle of himself in the community.
How could Ray ever expect to gain any allies from his conservative neighbors when he decided to go organic, refused to plant genetically modified seed, and started a “grow and eat local” movement, which also included his favorite “side project” – the promotion of hemp goods.
Again, he gave up these productive activities, for what?
To manually catapult a leather-covered spheroid to his deceased father’s leather-gloved hand, in order to receive the same sphere, in return, to his own hand. And to repeat this activity, ad nauseum, and most likely in silence. What a complete, and even reckless, waste of time.
Play – the act of: in public, with our friends, or with our brothers and sisters in the struggle for justice, our critics have said - should be avoided at all costs.
Work - movement policies and procedures: You shall follow the prescribed methods for participating in said movement - or you shall be publicly reprimanded and potentially dismissed for your breach of the code of conduct.
Isn’t that authoritarian vision of labor one of the things we are fighting against?
I say – play on!
Play allows us to develop alternatives to violence and despair; it helps us learn perseverance and gain optimism.
Stuart Brown, MD. American psychiatrist