A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High-Sensing Male
The Importance of Field of Dreams: A Story of Reconciliation and Masculinity
In 1989 as a sensitive man going through a difficult divorce, I was searching for emotional healing and a moment of revelation. The film Field of Dreams, directed by Phil Alden Robinson, was not, as the title implies, just about baseball but about reconciling a long-lost relationship between a father and son. It profoundly impacted me because I had lost my father, as Ray Kinsella had in the film when I was only seventeen and not yet mature enough to process the emotions and impact of such a loss.
The film's storyline was a fantasy about a man who builds a baseball field on his farm, plowing through his crop based on nothing more than a voice in his head. The main character is led on a road trip to pick up men with broken dreams, including an idealistic but disillusioned writer, a small-town doctor who dreamed of being a ballplayer, and deep within the cornfield, a dishonored Chicago White Sox baseball player plagued by scandal. All of them were looking to reconcile lost opportunities, all tied to baseball. The fantasy was provided by a mystic force and metaphysical magic, with the cornfield backdrop serving as the off-stage for the various actors returning from life after death. But the main story was the reconciliation of Ray Kinsella with his father, John, portrayed in the movie by his younger self.
The film explores the idea of reconciliation through fantasy, which can be both comforting and challenging. Although, it can be difficult to achieve in real life, particularly between fathers and sons. Fathers and sons often unwittingly drift from each other, creating a lack of trust and love that both yearn for, but their egos block. Sometimes, this is over something trivial, but it metastasizes into an immutable block that prevents the necessary healing. In addition, pride and shame often prime the pump of masculine stubbornness that prevents the healing required.
The scene in the movie that ties up the storylines is the final catch scene. Kinsella knows that the young player who has joined the other professionals from the other side is his dad. It's unclear if the senior Kinsella knows until the final scene that Ray is his son. At dusk, one evening, the father has been practicing with the other professional players who emerged from the cornfield. The others leave, and John is left to pack up the remaining gear.
Ray strikes up an awkward conversation with him. As the conversation begins to wane and the father begins to work his way back into the cornfield, Ray stops him and, in the most pivotal part of the movie, looks towards his father and calls him by name. "Dad, do you want to have a catch?" His voice almost breaks at the request, and the father looks at him like he's known all along and says yes. At that moment, the healing begins.
Many men cry during this scene, as it represents the healing of the relationship between fathers and sons, many of whom, like me, will never experience this moment. Finally, Ray got his dream, and as the prescient voice stated, he was able to "ease his pain." The movie ends as the camera pulls back, revealing a line of cars coming to the field of dreams, no doubt bearing the hopes of legions of men who long for this healing.
There are so many ways of slicing this movie up. Still, it's clear the themes of masculinity (baseball references), expressing and receiving tender emotions, reconciling past wrongs, and healing within the context of something so strongly American: corn fields, baseball, and father-son relationships.
The film has various metaphors of masculinity, including baseball, the responsibilities of fatherhood, the repression of feelings, and the release and forgiveness necessary for healing. These metaphors contribute to the film's overall message about what it means to be a man. Men are expected to repress their emotions and still be responsible fathers and dutiful sons, which can lead to strained relationships between males. The film highlights the importance of forgiveness, perspective, and release, with an underlying message about healing key relationships before it's too late.
The film profoundly impacted me, offering a chance to reconcile and regain a lost relationship, albeit via vicarious methods. I related to the film's portrayal of masculinity, which helped me understand my own emotions and relationships. The audience's reaction to the catch scene was cathartic, and many men can relate to what was seen. I wish and sometimes fantasize that I could heal my relationship with my father. Being a man is complicated, and the film's portrayal of masculinity has given me an anchor point to my relationship with my children, especially my sons.
I felt the film was masterful in portraying these frayed father-son relationships. I completely connected to the film, not knowing when I started watching, the emotional journey it would take me on.
Like Kinsella, I lost my dad at a young age. We never got to reach that point where we connected. He was my model for masculinity, and until he died, I felt like I had failed him. I was a sensitive boy, and he was a sensitive man. He tried his best to toughen me up, but he sensed my frustration, the same frustration which he also knew.
Time would have healed our wounds if he had only lived longer. But, instead, his absence left an empty hole in my life. The movie showed me the wound again and made me deal with it. I cried for days afterward, probably because it hit so hard, but also because of my divorce. I was separated from my children, and the emotions of separation lingered with me daily.
Years later, I still feel strong emotions when I watch the film.
The significance of this film is truly understated. Perhaps, because so many men will not own up to their painful emotions, many will not see the catharsis that the film provides. One of the key and most important relationships in a man's life is with his father. The thread of male bonding runs deep and is often neglected or not nurtured. Unfortunately, some men will never be able to receive that healing – a sad state provided by some of the more rigid rules of traditional masculinity.
There is always a little boy inside of every man who couldn't be expressed – full of emotion, questions, and a desire to be themselves. Trying so hard to please their father, they abandon their dreams in hopes of creating a bridge between father and son.
Know this that time waits for no man. The time is now to show and express your feelings for those you love. Heal the differences, but accept the individual as they have been created. Field of Dreams was one of the most emotional movies I have watched and experienced. Why it is not considered one of the greatest films of all time is beyond me. Maybe it was the fantasy; perhaps it broached a forbidden topic; regardless, viewing should be required for all men who have struggled with losing their fathers.
Bill Allen currently lives in Lutz, Florida. He previously lived in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.