On Humbleness

Humbleness has rarely been far from how I feel and live.  It was brief times away from humbleness here and there that soon resulted in me falling on my face, swiftly bringing me back to this initial state of being.

Confidence, on the other hand, felt ever-elusive for so much of my life. Now, I find myself thinking and acting more confidently, while out of a sense of humbleness. Among other things, staying humble keeps me open to learning and knowing more clearly what to actually feel confident about.

It is painful for me to witness how difficult it is for some to simply be humble, which, to be clear, does not mean groveling and/or being smaller/less than others.

Brief Reflection on My Travels and Openness

When I was 5 1/2 years old, I began over a year of travel with my parents that took me overseas to England and Europe, then back across the Atlantic down to Central America and up through Mexico, all before arriving back home, Northern CA. We moved around a lot, living for a while in ethnically diverse Berkeley of the 1970s. (Telegraph Avenue was hopping then with merchants selling their colorful wares.) We visited at least a few Native American Indian reservations. There were some other journeys too and peoples I met along the way.

I know that my openness to meeting and learning from others who are far different than myself stems in significant part from the various cultures and ways of life I was exposed to over extended periods of time at such a young age. In a sense, my own backyard was expanded early on to encompass whole other countries and peoples. And while I am often a homebody these days, feeling tired at times from a hard week’s work, in my heart I remain ever-open to meeting and welcoming an array of people into my life.

Taking Up Space

I walk this graceful and sometimes clumsy line of doing my best to take up my rightful physical (and otherwise) space in the world without over-stepping into others’ space. I’m very aware of my privilege as a white, professional male and how I’ve overly taken up a lot of space, some of which here and there was not rightfully mine to take. Then, there’s the actual space that I and my needs naturally fill up, which is ultimately non-negotiable. Between this delineation has been a confusing, gray seeming area for me, which, thankfully, has become less and less so over the years. I think this is a challenge many of us– if not all– humans learn to navigate better as we grow.

Hear hear to all the disenfranchised people taking up more of their rightful space!

Politicians Are Servants and, on Rare Occasion, Worthy of Celebrity Status

[Trigger warning:  The very end of my commentary is briefly irreverent and crude, to drive home my point, so to speak.  Hopefully, readers will glean the sense of humor that I meant to convey in an off-color way.  Sometimes, people take themselves far too seriously.]

The following words from blogger and political commentator Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) came my way via a friend’s post over on Facebook:

“I say to Beto fans, Trump fans, all fans of politicians: it is un-American, ridiculous, and dangerous to be a fan of a politician.  They aren’t pop stars.  Support them if you agree with their policies.  Criticize them when they go wrong.  They are servants, not celebrities.”

Okay, so let me unpack this.  First of all, I think it can be argued that all celebrities are servants.  They serve the public in assorted ways, pop stars providing entertainment as a service.  Hence, I find his delineation of servant and celebrity rather extreme and not always accurate.  Also, what the hell is wrong with fandom, including political fandom where truly earned?

Mr. Walsh’s tone here is harshly chastising, directly contributing to an already over-polarized discourse in the political arena, which is the last thing we need more of in America.  Upon sleeping on this statement of his after I first read it last night, what came to me was how intellectually elitist Matt Walsh comes across as being in this statement.  Instead of encouraging people to look within towards better understanding their deep hunger for leaders to look up to with devotion, he shames them for their attempts at doing so, as if they/we are ignorant children to be scorned.  It’s like he assumes everyone is or should be highly-educated (which many are not), purely objective (when one’s subjective life situation plays a central part in perceptions and judgments), and should minimize or not factor in genuine inspiration-filled, good feelings as part of one’s decision-making process when picking public leaders.  The implication is that including this third item is superficial and ignorant, i.e., uneducated and unpatriotic, childish.  This is no way to win over people into a more unified electorate to vote against Trump and his ilk, and most certainly not Beto fans, who are a swathe of people we can and should count as allies/fellow voting citizens.  Harshly shaming people for trying their best, which inevitably includes their natural impulses and human short-comings, is unproductive.  Rather, encouraging people to do better is what’s needed.  And please interweave within that encouragement the dissemination of accurate information, combined with underscoring how we are all in this together.  Also, devotion need not be completely dismissed out of hand as un-evolved and inappropriate within the political arena.  Some people occasionally earn such trust and admiration.

I say that you can celebrate excellent politicians while criticizing them where indicated, as they are certainly not infallible, just the opposite. In other words, be discerning and mindful, not a blind follower and praiser of a politician, or anyone for that matter.  I need to know much more about Beto O’Rourke and his policy positions, for example, before praising him/treating him as a celebrity.  And what little I do know about his policy stances doesn’t warrant much praise.  But, if a political leader is doing a great job, showing bravery and consistently putting their words into good actions, from a place of sincerity and true care — which is a very rare breed of politician– then I feel damn happy and glad to praise and celebrate them.  Alexandria Ocasio Cortez comes readily to mind, and not because of her looks, but what she says and does with passion, stridency, absolute sincerity, and compassion.  However, let’s be honest here.  It certainly does not detract in any way that AOC is also physically young, beautiful, and vibrant.  She speaks and works hard on behalf of her constituents and, by extension, so many of us who are not in her Congressional district.  From a place of joy and relief in my heart, I celebrate her.  I don’t think by doing so that I’m participating in being “un-American, ridiculous, or dangerous,” just the opposite.  Rather, via praise and, subsequently, some devotion to her, I wish to reinforce AOC in doing a great job, encouraging the new Congresswoman to stay with it, particularly given the fact that she receives hate mail and death threats constantly.  Also, another intention here is to encourage other political leaders to emulate Ms. Cortez in thought and action.  She is truly a celebrity because she has earned such status from me and others.  Supporting Ms. AOC’s ongoing upward (thus far) evolution as a great leader is truly being patriotic, safe-making (as opposed to dangerous– except for her toxically ignorant opponents), and anything but ridiculous.  It is possible, of course, that her integrity could weaken and she could rightfully lose this status.  My hope, of course, is that this will not happen.

This post by Mr. Walsh is broad-sweeping, though I do get the point he is trying to make. The phenomenon of creating and maintaining celebrities has been overdone time and again, unmindfully/with little thought, given the aforementioned desperate need in many people to have someone to follow, be it politically and/or spiritually. I get that.  But, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a need and efforts to fulfill it.  Some discerning celebrity-making is fine and healthy.  Devotion isn’t automatically a stupid, ridiculous, un-American thing in all instances.  Actually, it’s quite typically American to be devoted to public figures, however uninformed many are in doing so.  It’s simply that most people have not duly earned their celebrity, particularly in the political arena.  Many individuals are often far too trusting too soon, willing to go with little or no information to back up their first blush gut responses to an appealing persona put before them.  Often, this comes out of innocence, though, for even more, just plain ignorance, stemming from fear and initially not knowing any different.  Some of us start out in life with more available information due to privilege we are born into and next to, while others are less fortunate, starting with little to almost nothing.  That’s not to condescend to the latter in any way– which Mr. Walsh comes across as doing in his post.  Those of us who know more need to offer out our knowledge as best and creatively to as many as possible, as often as possible.  Share and share alike.  Therein lies good leadership.

Along with a weaponizing of knowledge (by both liberal/progressive elites and conservatives alike, albeit generally more calculatingly so by the latter) against those who lack it, there is a paucity of praise to others in the world and way too much harmful tearing down of people instead.  I’ve always valued the importance of frequent, thoughtful, honest praise.  I find there is joy in giving it where readily earned.  Everyone deserves it here and there, be it small or large praise, including to reinforce a quality we may wish to see more expression of from someone.

To my understanding, an origin of giving praise is a spiritual one.  We are recognizing the divine or higher, evolved, positive nature in someone when we praise them.  Devotion and its accompanying act of praising is an ancient practice done before gods in countless cultures across history.  It is a moment of wonder and goodness when we recognize and speak of the good/Goddess/God nature in someone before us.  Doing this often is an important part of a healthy spiritual practice or, for those who are strict atheists, simply good mental hygiene.

There is so much cynical judging and divisiveness going around– which is a large part of the problem in politics and elsewhere– and this post by Matt Walsh smacks of more of it to me, his judgments seemingly from a place of informed privilege and arrogance.  How tiring.  Join the rest of humanity, please, Matt.  I think you need to chill out for a bit, perhaps get a long series of deep tissue massages while having what seems like an uncomfortable big stick pulled out of your ass.

 

Mini Movie Review (DUMBO)

DUMBO was dark and dreary in overall look and tone, which is typical of director Tim Burton. Apart from some beautiful Art Deco inspired sets and, at the very end, lush jungle imagery, I did not find this movie memorable. Strong emotional connections between the characters were lacking. Eva Green as the leading lady, a French acrobat, was lovely in her feather-filled outfits. But, no-one else stood out as particularly interesting to me, not even Dumbo.

I have seen some impressive, compelling CGI beings up on the big screen, but Dumbo wasn’t one of them. His facial expressions, movements, and twitterings were cute but a very limited repertoire. The whole film smacked of unoriginality, with its stock/two dimensional characters, derivative script writing, and a tired, over-used ending.

On Fear and Ignorance

I’m convinced that some people have a part or parts inside them that are fearfully, willfully ignorant and prefer to stay that way rather than allow new information to change their overall perspective. It’s like they’re predominately stuck somewhere in a stage/phase of child development, having never successfully completed it. I think this has always been the case for whole segments of humanity. For those of us who are not so rigidly ruled by ignorant, afraid parts– and all or the vast majority of people have them in their psyches– it’s left to us to save both ourselves and those more stuck people from such harmful actions that arise from desperately holding onto so much fear and ignorance. No pridefulness or arrogance is meant here. Rather, a combination of being humble, compassionate, and mindfully aware is in order. Those who strive imperfectly but sincerely to live this way naturally lead others by example into creating a healthier world for all. And I’m so grateful for the many who lead by such wonderful example.

Movie Review (CAPTAIN MARVEL)

I’d give CAPTAIN MARVEL a strong “B” for “bueno”– not particularly great or deeply compelling emotionally, but filled with color and action-filled fun. Some of the villainous characters were interesting.  Samuel Jackson as Agent Fury portrays a pleasant mix of gritty and humorous, stealing almost every scene that he’s in.  His character is more developed here than in any of the previous Marvel productions.  I was glad to get to know his back story and what makes him tick as a person.

The editing is rather choppy in places, fitting in a lot in a little over two hours.  It took a second viewing (this time with my husband) to follow the whole story more clearly.  Also, the ending was anti-climactic, fizzling down into an almost comical, very brief fight for Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel against a powerful man who had deeply deceived her.

I’ve never seen a house cat used so creatively in a film before, so that was something extra entertaining.

I am heartened to see another comic book movie about a super heroine, and one who was originally created as a male no less.  It’s important to keep switching up things in favor of showcasing more powerful, heroic women– so long overdue. But, for my personal taste, I find other Marvel and DC super heroines thus far portrayed on screen to be much more charismatic than Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow come readily to mind.  However, I give Ms. Larson an “A” for effort, even if she often did not feel like a gripping, dynamic character to me.  She lacked some edge and emotional depth.  Larson’s Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel was very much in the Americana trope of ordinary-seeming, “apple pie” wholesome, someone I could more readily envision surfing the waves in Southern California rather than fighting off heavily-armed aliens and spaceships.   

Frankly, other people came to mind as a more believable Captain Marvel.  I would have preferred Lashana Lynch, who plays the lead’s best friend, in the title role.  But, Ms. Lynch’s being African American relegated her to a supporting player, I guess– at least this time around.  I so wish the two characters for the actresses had been reversed, though even that change may have only partially worked better for me.  Interestingly, after we’d watched the movie, my husband said he imagined the singer and occasional actress Pink (Alecia Moore) being great in the part, although she is now ten years too old to play it.  I definitely could see a younger Pink as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, for she’s definitely a woman with some chutzpah and believable emotional intensity.  

These super heroine/hero movie roles have big boots to fill.  It’s disappointing when casting is off the mark for any of them, like Ben Affleck as Batman has been.  Same goes for Brie Larson in this latest Marvel blockbuster– though, to be fair, not quite that disappointing.  All said and done, I will be okay with watching her in the upcoming AVENGERS: ENDGAME.  Perhaps Ms. Larson will grow into her role more, particularly with such an ensemble of comparative heavy-weights for her to have to mesh with.  There is possibly that.