FEATURE image: “Kevin Costner; (pants half off)” by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
I. Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams: “If you build it, he will come”
Field of Dreams is a 1989 sports fantasy from Universal Pictures and starring Kevin Costner. It is a creative film about, one could say, the intersection of reality and fantasy on the American landscape—or simply the intersection of what are different realities.
Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, is a young husband and father, who hears voices to build a baseball field on his low-income Iowa farm. Ray is promised that “If you build it, he will come.”
The “he” is Kinsella’s own deceased father John who had played baseball as a young man, got old too quick, and died after he and teenage Ray had a falling out over the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox team.
The late-1980’s Ray, married with a family, still thinks about his relationship with his father that was cut short. The film asks whether it is possible for adult Ray to meet his father and baseball player John Kinsella on his “field of dreams.”
Ray never doubts his voices but is never sure what they mean except when he tries to connect the dots by traveling across long distances of place and season to meet strangers for whom the answers most matter.
Ray’s efforts lead to surprising, mysterious and ultimately fulfilling encounters for those who come to play on his field of dreams—or are there simply to watch.
II. Hinduism and the Christian Ashram Movement
Bede Griffiths (1906-1993) was a Catholic English monk. He is known as Swami Dayananda (bliss of compassion) as he dedicated his life’s work to the Christian Ashram Movement and its role in the development of dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism.
Swami Dayananda said in an interview: “I feel that in the Christian view, which I share, the body is of very great importance. There is a tendency in certain forms of Hinduism, certainly, to think that the purpose of spiritual exercises is to get beyond the body.
But in my understanding, the human being is body, soul, spirit, and it is an integrated whole. Body and soul – the body is dependent upon and integrated with soul, and body and soul are dependent upon and integrated in spirit. The body is part of the wholeness of the human being.
And that’s why incarnation is very important. God enters the psycho-physical realm and assumes it and doesn’t discard it. And at the resurrection the body is not discarded, it is assumed into the life with the soul and the spirit. I think the place of the body is a significant part of the Christian contribution. It is the total human being which is to enter into the life of the spirit.”
SOURCE: Marvin Barrett, “The Silent Guide,” Parabola, v.xi, no. 1.
III. Public Clothes & Private Self
There is a drive in today’s society to be singular, intimate, and well known in a society that, paradoxically, is vast and impersonal, and common and conventional.
Seeking to be “authentic” in the public domain, we are also insecure or unsure about the people we meet there. Many don’t know their next door neighbors but look or presume to be intimate with the wider world. To be intimate and authentic in a vast and alien society― which is evident as one surfs the internet― is today’s growth industry.
Yet even in the public space there are less flashy moments of behavior about the private self. Such is the thriving language of love—a raised eyebrow; dropped glove; the rush to light the actual and proverbial cigarette. Each small, well-timed gesture and inflection of voice helps raise the romantic pitch and without loss of boundaries between the private self and public space.
These silent cues can be applied in many venues, although often replaced by the importance of interchangeble self-image striving for immediate intimacy—that is, a glimpse of the inner self, the cult of personality—in the public space.
Fashion changes clothes every season in the age-old attempt to convey private personality (“taste”) in the public forum. The popular, and therefore, important, social model is to take the world by storm—and each and every time. That allows for the chic costumed and yet exposed private self to stand up to public scrutiny or be destroyed by it. This increasingly happens online in the social media “mob.”
Clothing provides a rich metaphor for the dilemma of the private self in the public space. It serves those seeking to make hyperbole of their private personality and its fluctuating nature as well as those seeking to downplay and hide the same.
In a world of omnipresent cellphone and security cameras airport pat downs, the notion of clothing to exclude public encroachment on the private self appears to bemore and more gone with the wind.
Even at Christmas the use of clothes in a sacred context is important. In the Gospel of Luke the angel told the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people….there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2: 10-12).
In the Bible a major teaching tradition is that when a person discovers the Divine—as God makes every attempt to self-disclose—that moment of recognition is like putting on a new garment tailored to that individual’s exact measurements.
This Divine garment endows a person with a sense of dignity and private self-awareness―a highly personal investiture that turns the modern notion of the private-as-public self upside down.
This rule of clothes extends to John the Baptist—a figure who is important in both Christianity (as saint and prophet) and Islam (as a prophet).
John is described as coming out of the wilderness wearing “a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3). When God “dresses” humanity in the divine image something is expected of them in ways other than the modern idea of a new image or appeal.
It is an inner and private change which takes on a significantly different meaning than just one more public role.
SOURCES: Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, W.W. Norton, 1976; Joseph Wolf, “Divine Clothing,” Parabola, v.xix, no. 3.
IV. Crisis of Child Hunger in U.S. Today
Hunger is defined as “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food as well as an exhausted condition caused by want of food.”
While being homeless as an adult is a harsh test, to be homeless as a child is worse. Society’s striving to make homelessness nonexistent or scarce is painfully incomplete. Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children who are the country’s future.
In presidential and other political campaigns there is rhetoric by candidates of the major parties about the importance of safety and security from terrorists who do bodily harm. Yet each night, such as tonight, more than 15 million American children go to bed hungry, according to Feeding America.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the United States today has an all-time high population of 74 million children. More than 20% of these children are food-insecure.
In a land of plenty, where more than 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered to be overweight or obese, food injustice is a daily problem.
Definition of hunger – Oxford English Dictionary, 1971.