the kevin costner movie "field of dreams" came out when i was five. i remember watching it, thinking the idea was interesting, and wondering what it would be like to do something outwardly foolish because a loud voice in a corn field promised a return (albeit, a rather ominous one...who will come?).
in the movie, kevin costner is an ordinary american -- hard-working, married, poor, and for the box office's sake, conveniently attractive. his wife, in the film, looks like she could sing karaoke in a roadside saloon in any number of southern states, or nevada.
when costner decides to bulldoze the cornfield and replace it with a yankees-grade baseball diamond--because a voice told him that "he will come" if he builds it--she throws a fit and considers her options.
but he does it anyway. eventually, ray liotta comes sauntering out of the corn field to check out kevin's handiwork. he's impressed.
i think about field of dreams when i write. it's a cheesy reference to an 80's housewife excuse to ogle costner in tight faded jeans and a dirty white tee shirt. but it resonates nonetheless.
doing what you want to do takes a shit load of courage. doing what other people tell you to do is the path of least resistance. humans are mostly made of water, we like to take that path as often as possible. but sometimes, building the arc in a landlocked desert feels less insane than wearing a tie and stamping papers or taking orders. we are used to shelving what our toucan nose would prefer to eat for breakfast so we settle for shredded wheat. but we want fruit loops.
i wonder what the world would be like if more people gave themselves permission to build their arc or raze their cornfields for a baseball diamond, all for the sake of following animal instinct. because something told us to do it.
building your arc is easier when everyone seems to be fumbling for answers. there is a cyclical emphasis on results, science, clarity, logic and data to support hypothesis. but when hard science runs reason into a wall, there is an open invitation to waltz through the debris, pick up the pieces and do something extraordinary with them. that is the only way that order has ever been restored. chaos, anarchy, atheism, revolt begets enlightenment, renaissance, democracy, invention.
in his predictable, iowa-stricken life, humble order and tradition (in the form of corn-husking salt-of-the- earth "conservatives") form a zealot army of backward thought, fear-driven attitudes and mob mentality in rows of folding chairs at a PTA meeting (agenda: book banning). as far as the locals were concerned, swapping corn for a baseball field was, at best, an unpopular choice.
offscreen, certain eras have been more conducive to arc building and corn dozing than others, though certain arc builders have met with less enviable fates.
i saw a "performance art" exhibit at the museum of modern art in manhattan two years ago. it was a collection of wild acts and disturbing dares conceived by one marina abramović. the title of her work: the artist is present. this was a pivotal experience for me, and many others. there is now a blog titled "marina abramovic made me cry". an epidemic of weepers inspired a piece in the new york times about marina's collection as well. i was no exception.
in hindsight, i see this as a prophetic expression of where we are now. it was when the horse came unhooked from the cart to wander aimlessly, while the driver (us) still cracks the ghostly outline of the horse's footprints in the dust.
it was life, a sweater, turned inside out and feeling alarmingly more normal than it did, right-side out. what would "normally" seem absurd, ridiculous, laughable, violent or obscene, tickled a revealing nerve: what we took for granted as normal, was actually insane. and what we'd like to label "crazy" or whimsical, was beginning to seem increasingly more logical by comparison. the affect was unsettling and refreshing: it was the stripping down of normal, deletion of clothing and other facades that exposed normal as a fraud. what could we count on then? why did crazy suddenly feel like home?
marina's arc floated by, and i wished i was on it.
i wrote about it that night:
april 24, 2010
we saw videos of marina screaming herself hoarse, dancing herself to exhaustion, and running naked into a man, also naked. live humans, totally nude, facing eachother, guarded the narrow entrance to a wing of the exhibit, stared at eachother straight in the eyes -- unwavering. brushing past to get to the wing, few people faced the man as they sidestepped through -- most faced the woman. toward the end, there was a naked woman mounted high on a white wall, straddling a bicycle seat with arms raised, pits overgrown.
then, a video of marina trying not to spill water from a pot, standing alone in a dismal, chipping, empty kitchen. that's when i started crying. something about the power of interaction? on a human, face to face level, the literal stepping through or stepping aside of norms that suddenly seemed stranger than the bizarre exhibits we were looking at...something too about women. the baring of women, the absurdity of sex, the grotesqueness of our physical world (reduced to a large heap of bloody cattle bones, in a room by itself) carnage, endurance, amid ridiculous worries not to spill the water. disturbance at watching a woman scream until she can't, dance until she collapses, or silently being scrutinized in public. was it her choice? it must have been. but why?
everything we shared as normal suddenly twisted into shock, wonder, there was something distinctly lost and alienated yet familiar in it all.
pubic hair, no attempt at changing nature but rather, amplifying it in a reversal of what is normal/acceptable/disturbing/pleasant or real about women and who we really are. it made me cry.
like the proverbial field of dreams, an arc is a monument to the true self. it is every human's magnum opus. it is permission from the mind to the heart to the hand, in order to realize the soul's mission and design. only secondarily is it a service to humanity -- though that is usually what everyone else remembers, or values most. it is courage combined with what looks like madness, that levels corn fields, builds a boat in the desert, and makes new yorkers cry.