Many of my readers have asked for some glimpses into the book I am currently editing “The Spiritwalk”. I am hoping to have the book ready for publication this fall, but in order to keep my friends happy, here is a portion at the beginning of chapter 11, a chapter titled “The Genesis Effect”.
Mark watched helplessly as Karin fell off the back of the bleachers. Neither he, his sister or her husband Ray knew a piece of hot dog was lodged in Karin’s throat and would soon kill her; their lack of knowledge more than anything was putting her in greatest danger. At that same moment, a young man the ballplayers would nickname “Moonlight Graham” had a crucial decision to make. He was living his dream of facing big-league pitching, but he also knew he was the only one who had the knowledge to save Karin’s life. He hesitated for a moment and then crossed the base-line. As he went across, his baseball uniform became a suit and tie, his bat transformed into a doctor’s bag and he aged 60 years in a moment.
That’s when Mark had his eyes opened. Until that moment, he had only seen an empty ballfield, a waste of good Iowa cornfield at best, proof of Ray’s slipping sanity at worst. Who builds a baseball diamond and outfield with professional dimensions in the middle of Iowa corn-growing country, especially when he owes money on that property to a group of impatient investors? But now Mark, representative of the investors, could see the ballplayers of baseball’s past throwing, hitting and catching, generally enjoying their game. Here was an all-star lineup for the ages parading their skills where a few moments before Mark had seen only a diamond and grass. What Ray and Annie had done was extend the dimensions of the afterlife into the physical realm and only when Moonlight Graham stepped back into the physical realm did the entire landscape become open to Mark the skeptic.
The movie, “Field of Dreams” is a magical dream based on the book “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella. Though it doesn’t explain anywhere in the book or the movie how the spirit realm and the physical interact (or why), this story has captured the hearts of millions around the world. Even though Annie’s brother Mark should make more practical sense to all of us who have grown up in this very physical world, in the movie and book we cannot identify with him. He is out of touch with the reality our suspended disbelief is able to apprehend. To our observer minds, there is a blending of the spiritual and physical here in this Iowa baseball diamond. The end of the movie features a famous speech by the writer who is chronicling this amazing baseball game. Terence Mann tells Ray about the inner aspirations of mankind:
Ray. People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn into your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door, as innocent as children, longing for the past. “Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,” you’ll say, “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” And they’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their short sleeves on a perfect afternoon. And find they have reserved seats somewhere along the baselines where they sat when they were children. And cheer their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
Terence Mann may be expressing the deepest longing of all our hearts; the desire to know with a certainty there is more to our lives than the mundane functions of the physical. There is no question we love to eat, exercise, touch, be touched, smell the flowers, touch a puppy, swim, jump, caress, hold, listen to symphonies….all of this is the grandeur of the physical. But for all that this realm pleases us, there are those moments when we know they’re not all there is; they’re just not enough.
But since the beginning of the Enlightenment, it seems even Christians have abandoned the spirit realm to the arena of the magical, mythical, theoretical and supernatural. Even the word “supernatural” implies something that is beyond the natural, and therefore something that cannot be discerned or studied with any certainty. As Francis Schaeffer teaches in his book “The God Who Is There”, the Enlightenment authors created a line of demarcation between the spirit realm and the physical. According to Schaeffer, this line was hard and fast; nothing crossed from one side to the other. Therefore, he refers to this as the “Line of Despair.”
Why “despair”? Below the line they placed the physical realm with its functions, sensory data, predictable principles and mankind. Above the line they postulated there could be spirit beings, miracles, transcendent truths, meaning, purpose, absolute laws and all non-physical principles. Because anything below the line cannot touch anything above the line, mankind cannot realize or discern true meaning for life. In essence, each of us a sack of chemicals cut off from transcendent meaning and guidance. God cannot cross that boundary. That’s why Schaeffer called it the “Line of Despair”.
This understanding proclaimed by the Enlightenment can best be expressed by the Romantic poet John Keats. At the end of his poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, Keats proclaims,
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Keats is studying an old urn dug up in his day and commenting on the various scenes around its circumference. As he sees all of this, he concludes that the only thing any of us can know for sure is the kind of beauty that can be observed and enjoyed through physical senses. That is why he reaches the crescendo of his credo when he says “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” This is a slap in the face of those who look to the Bible, God, the Church or any transcendent truth.
On this point the Christians of the later Enlightenment period stumbled, and we have kept on stumbling in their wake. Instead of challenging the legitimacy of the Line, they accepted it and then tried to make sense of our relationship with God in the light of the Line. One of the Christian writers who made the biggest impact was Soren Kierkegaard, who accepted the validity of this demarcation and said the only way we could experience God was to “take a leap of faith”. This ‘leap of faith’ is not based on anything we can verify or validate and represents an acknowledgment that we can never cross the Line until we stop being a physical being (at death). To Kierkegaard and others who followed him, we do not directly experience God; we can only experience the knowledge of believing in the God who cannot be experienced in this life.
Other Christians would not abandon the upper story above the line, and claimed that God erased the Line for a time when he sent to mankind prophets, the Bible, Jesus and miracles. But once the Bible had been completed, God closed up the line again so we would not be confused. In essence, they arrived at the same point as Kierkegaard and Keats: Mankind cannot experience anything above the line any more, including God.
Hearing this, we sit in our cars driving up Ray Kinsella’s driveway, wondering if there will be anything to see there besides a baseball diamond in a cornfield.