Build It and They Will Come

Am I the only one who wonders how all those animals knew that there was a man building a gigantic boat on a hilltop at the edge of the forest? Was it all the sawing and hammering that drew their curiosity? Or was it a call that reached them out of earshot?

Did some of them help in the construction? The elephants rolling logs like they still do in India? Horses pulling trees out of the forest, like the horses of a man I met when I lived in Montreal, that pulled logs and buckets of syrup out of the Maple stand on his land (an image I still remember decades later, because at that time I was searching for something or someone to pull me out of my sinking life in Montreal).

Once the ark was seaworthy and the rain turned from intermittent showers to a deluge that didn’t stop for months, how did the animals know to come, and how did just two of them know that they had been chosen to be part of a new future for Planet Earth?

Similar questions are raised in the movie, “Field of Dreams”, where waves begin rocking the hull of a ship that had seemed until then to be sailing on course just fine. Kevin Costner, the reluctant Noah, is getting nudged to do something that makes no sense to him or anyone else. Earl Ray Jones, an even more reluctant helper, must make peace with his own disappointed dreams, before he can consider following anyone else’s. But, like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, they head off into the field of windmills which, we eventually discover, are spinning in the winds of another kind of time.

The bewildering phrase that haunts their journey, is “Build it and they will come.” It echoes in his dreams and at other inconvenient moments, until, like someone getting a tooth pulled in a desperate attempt to get rid of the pain, he cuts down half his corn field. Has madness come to rest in the branches of his mind? Why else would an Iowa farmer be asking “Who will come?” when he has no idea who that ‘who’ is?

We have no idea either. But, like in “Groundhog Day”, the dreamer finds his way into a future that is touched by the miraculous. In both films, we rejoice in the possibility of being lifted out of our own hesitations and fears and being set free to walk into a new future. In Groundhog Day, it seems that only two people (Phil and Rita) are carried into that new future; Phil learns that even in the dismal repetition of a single day, he can find the fresh wind of new beginnings. While in Field of Dreams, many others come, each carried along in a rising tide of living time.

The living and the dead both come. Baseball greats, now passed into legend, step out from the cornfield into the light of an Iowa summer. At the end of the joyous game they then play, his father, who died before Costner had a chance to express his love, walks out onto the field and–a modern day Prodigal Son–he gets to have one last game of catch.

It’s not just those players, stepping out from the corn stalks of a farmer’s field to play ball, who come. The bleachers have filled up with neighbors and city dwellers out for a Sunday drive, none of whom can give a rational account of why they turned onto this road in a farming community and are now witnessing a baseball game for the ages.

And we are the ones who are invited to join the lucky elephants and step on board.

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