“If You Build it, (they) will come…”

This post is part of a series called “The Spirit of the Movies” exploring how the big screen illuminates us, shows us deeper meaning, and lights our path toward living a truly heroic life.

You hear this familiar quote all the time, “If you build it, THEY will come…” If you’re not familiar with the quote, it’s from a 1989 movie staring Kevin Costner called “Field of Dreams”. And if you’re not familiar with literature :), the movie was based on a 1982 W.P Kinsella book called “Shoeless Joe”.

In the movie and the book, the protagonist and hero Ray Kinsella initially hears the “still small voice” as he’s grazing through his cornfield, telling him “If you build it, HE will come”.

And with the whisper of that still small voice, Ray’s journey begins.

In the first stage of the heroes journey (Joseph Campbell - The Hero with a Thousand Faces) the hero is given “The Call to Adventure”. It’s simply a call from his or her ordinary life into their new adventure.

The call can come in the form of a simple change of heart or the sudden loss of a loved one that leads to the opening of eyes.

With our hero Ray in Field of Dreams, he is literally called…

And as you can see and hear from the video, the voice did not say “If you build it THEY will come”. The voice whispers: “If you build it, HE will come…”

(SPOILER ALERT: If you want to watch the movie and don’t want to know the outcome, sorry, but you’ll have to stop reading here…oh well!)

That HE ends up being Shoeless Joe Jackson but in the end, that HE also ends up being his father with whom Ray finds reconciliation after so many years of being stuck with the pain of estrangement.

But the fact that this line is so often misquoted, commonly when people are referring to building or doing something new, usually in business, details quite poignantly a huge misunderstanding in our modern culture around embarking on a new, and what is quite often a radically new path.

And there’s a very important lesson to be learned here when are talking about the “Call to Adventure”: You are not embarking on this new path to achieve wealth, stardom, fame and all of the other false promises of our American culture.

THEY will not come...at least not at first. And if you are starting something new so that THEY will come — the fans, the dollar bills, the reporters — I would recommend that you stop right now.

You’ve heard this a thousand times but the journey is all about self-discovery and reconciliation with your demons, the things that are limiting you from living life fully.

And ultimately this is where Ray finds his salvation. After the journey of being the crazy man and building a field in the middle of his cash crop. After leaving his home and family to “go the distance”. And finally after risking everything he’s got to keep his farm and his house, only then is he able to “ease his pain”.

Shoeless Joe’s pain, his father’s pain and ultimately his own pain.

And then finally, when Ray finds his internal resolution, THEY do come. The final scene of the movie shows the stream of cars lining the Iowa cornfields as far as the eye can see to come visit what is truly a slice of heaven.

But it is not until the hero has stepped out, gone the distance and gone down into the realm of the underworld that THEY then show up. And at this point, it doesn’t matter to Ray that THEY are showing up. His path has been true, his path has been pure. All the result of following the still small voice inside that has lead him to his ultimate purpose and his ultimate reconciliation in his own life.

Are you listening for the still small voice?

Get quiet, listen closely…

What’s it saying to you in the whispering wind?

Are you ready for a new adventure, no matter how big…or small?

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