On Arriving Into Open-Heartedness

This noticeable opening of my heart has happened before. I’ve briefly written about it on at least a few occasions over past years, including over on Facebook. This time, there’s much more conscious awareness accompanying the process. I’m observing where this is coming from and how myself and others— including dear friends from much earlier times in my life— are connecting so openly and deeply of late. Emerging from over a year of enduring the COVID-19 pandemic has something to do with this, but there’s much more to it than that. Now well into middle age, I think I’ve finally turned a corner in emotional and spiritual development. Better late than never. I’m clearly, acutely aware now how I have discernment ability and choice around when and where to have my heart wide open and when it makes sense to briefly shield it, be that partially or completely so. This is akin to pulling a thick covering over someone or something that requires protection from nature’s harsh elements until one can bring the vulnerable being or object into safety again. I finally trust my own judgment around when to do this with my loving heart and when such action is not necessary. I have admittedly been too over-protected/closed-hearted much of the time, due to being far under-protected during a lot of my childhood/youth. I have been fortunate to live long enough to experience a steady development of conscious awareness, familiarity of heart-centered relating, and how those two can and do work naturally, even gracefully, together.

I am practical and realistic. I know that I need to and shall develop a practice to maintain this open heart consciousness way of living. Over on Facebook, I asked people to refrain from giving me suggestions concerning my spiritual practice. I ask the same of readers here as well. I’m fine with deepening my own familiar practices and exploring more additional options. I can and will ask certain people I know if and when I want suggestions. Please honor this request.

I am grateful to all of my dear loved ones who have helped me along the way with arriving here in this more awake and open-hearted place. Wherever I can, I will continue to be thankful and say how I love them.

Helping People Bloom From Their Sense of Being Different

The experience of helping people to accurately recognize how they’ve somehow always been different from others and then have them begin to embrace this/these difference/s instead of continuing to falsely believe they’re somehow defective is wondrous and liberating to witness. It’s like taking a flowering plant out of the darkness and putting it in sunlight to finally bloom.

Mini Movie Review (YVES SAINT LAURENT)


I just watched the 2014 French film YVES SAINT LAURENT. I enjoyed all the beautiful clothes, faces, artwork, music, and interiors. Actor Pierre Niney as fashion designer YSL was excellent, conveying a rare mix of ethereal elegance, nervous intensity, and coy sexiness. He looked a lot like Monsieur Saint Laurent. The rest of the cast was very good. I felt like I was partaking in a visual feast and party without having to deal with consequences of overindulgence like poor YSL did with drinks, drugs, and sex. What an imbalanced genius, a beautiful outsider who brilliantly created an elite insider niche for himself.

Movie Review (WONDER WOMAN 1984)

I finally watched WONDER WOMAN 1984 (released here in the U.S.A. last Christmas). I was prepared to be unimpressed, annoyed, confused, and disappointed. While the movie is certainly not as good as its 2017 prequel, which had a far more archetypal feel to it, I thoroughly enjoyed this newest installment of Gal Gadot starring as one of my favorite comic book super hero(ine)s. She looks as beautiful and poised as ever here, amidst a hair-brained storyline and fun 1984 time period props and settings. The latter two things were nostalgic for me. I graduated from high school that year, so I felt particularly demographically targeted as a viewer. Back in actual 1984, I admittedly enjoyed wearing clothes in the style of some of the outfits worn by a few of the male characters, including Chris Pine as Steve Trevor (come back from the dead due to some goofy ancient magic). The incidental ‘80s pop music and scenes in a shopping mall had me pleasantly reminiscing.

Comic actress Kristen Wiig is amusing to watch, ramping up the campiness of the film wonderfully (and I love camp). She is a good foil to the often earnest and proper Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. As the character Barbara Minerva when she is in villainess mode, Ms. Wiig is mostly not to be taken seriously (including in her final costume, which made me think of humanoid feline characters in the 2019 box office bomb CATS), except in a particular scene when she first embraces her dark side. That is believable and relatable, not only for many women abuse survivors, I imagine, but for anyone who’s ever been harshly mistreated in some way. Thoughts of revenge are natural to have, even though more people than not know better than to act on them.

There are a few actions that I found to be verging on nonsensical. Wonder Woman develops the ability of flight simply by finally believing she can combined, it seems, with the help of her magical golden lasso. I read some years worth of original Wonder Woman comics and watched the 1970s TV show with Lynda Carter. Nowhere in those narratives of the lovely heroine do I remember her ever having the ability to fly. I suppose the creators of this latest production wanted to make her even more superhuman/goddess-like. Perhaps I’m too attached to the old canon about this character, but I personally found this added on ability to be superfluous, unnecessary. That said, despite this inconsistency with how I’ve always known Wonder Woman to be, I didn’t actually mind seeing Ms. Prince fly because she looked so beautiful and graceful up in the clouds, her long dark hair blowing in the wind. And there’s likely the real reason she was portrayed flying: this was yet another way to showcase her lovely image. It’s all about appearances above all else.

The other occurrence that made little sense was how Wonder Woman’s invisible jet airplane comes to be. This is presented as a last-minute, all too convenient development done with seemingly little thought or effort. More magical powers are added onto the main character, more superfluousness. However, by not describing the actual scene I am referring to, I leave it to viewers to judge for themselves if I am on the mark here or not. Ultimately, it need not matter, since, as I’ve already implied, this film is simply meant to be visually fun and pleasing fluff, not a narrative with deep consistency or sense.

I was able to follow the story without confusion, though I’m sure it helped that I didn’t give the ridiculous, unoriginal plot much thought. I sat back and enjoyed all the slick sets, clothes, music, special effects, and Ms. Gadot’s goddess-like screen presence. The storyline about an ancient magical wishing stone getting into the wrong hands and eventually resulting in worldwide chaos hardly matters. It’s been similarly, repeatedly done in blockbuster movies anyways, very formulaic. This is a thrill-ride piece of cinema — exactly what I figured it would be. That said, I find myself in middle age becoming more of a softie in response to schmaltz and sentimentality, both of which are especially served up in a few scenes toward the end of the show. And that very schmaltz and sentiment redeems the film somewhat out of its often lame and silly narrative. Watching on screen how love and truth overcome crass materialism, narcissism, and unbridled power over others feels timely, encouraging, and refreshingly idealistic in this era of cynicism, selfishness, and lack of honesty by so many. I’ll take these feel good moments— even if unreal and fantastical— where I can, like breaths of fresh air. I’m thankful WONDER WOMAN 1984 could provide some for me. Sometimes, it’s good to just have a bit of mindless fun.

(Note: It’s important to watch the movie well into the end credits in order to see a special treat. At least it was for me and it certainly is/will be for many others.)

On Certain Derogatory Words I Don’t Use

Long ago, I personally stopped using the nasty “c” word, a label for a certain part of female anatomy. Going as far back as my adolescence, the context of usage of it in American culture left me especially turned off to the term. I respect women’s personal choice around reclaiming the word if they wish. Author Eve Ensler made an eloquent case for doing just that in her wonderful book THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. But, as a (biologically assigned and mostly identifying as) male ally of women and feminism, I have no use for it. For me, this is parallel to how white people really need not have any use for the “n” word, even though some Black people rightfully choose to say that descriptor amongst themselves.

In parallel to my feelings around the “c” and “n” words, as a gay man I have no interest in reclaiming the words “fag” or “faggot,” though many of my queer brethren and sistren do and say it freely amongst themselves. These terms are especially unpleasant in sound (as is the “c” word) in addition to being associated with my years of hearing them said directly to me with such a meanness, particularly in middle school and high school. I am happy to leave them behind out of my personal lexicon. People who know me respect this and do not use these epithets around me, even in jest, except, on occasion, in quotes to make a point or to quote someone else (again, to make some point, such as how difficult or ignorant the quoted person is). I appreciate their respect of me and my wishes.

I understand how some may judge me as being “overly sensitive” for having such strong boundaries around a small handful of words. My response to this is that I finally reached a shameless acceptance of the reality that I am indeed very sensitive, including around the above-discussed terms. I feel no need or wish to desensitize myself to them. My sensitivity is a part of who I naturally am and has led me to some wonderful insights and experiences in life, not the least being the profession I chose for myself (psychotherapist). I think many people could benefit from developing more sensitivity, which is another way of saying that empathy and compassion are important for everyone to cultivate in themselves and for others.

Mini Movie Review (STONEHEARST ASYLUM)

STONEHEARST ASYLUM (released in late 2014), directed by Brad Anderson, is a well-done Gothic suspense drama, taking place within an insane asylum in late 1899 and into the start of 1900. I finally learned what the obsolete term “alienist” means while watching this fun film. Young doctor Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) comes to Stonehearst Asylum in the English countryside to train as an alienist (a physician who attends to patients in an asylum). He discovers a disturbing shakeup of the staff there. Much intrigue ensues.

The cast (which includes Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, and Ben Kingsley) is excellent, the setting wonderfully macabre, and the cinematography darkly beautiful. The talented acting effectively carries the melodramatic script. I appreciate how the storyline includes a mix of old barbaric treatment methods being eclipsed by more humane effective ones and how the concept of insanity is presented as relative and often even subjective. This film is solid entertainment as both old fashioned-style, reliable suspense and romance and as a modern screenplay about human psyches and overcoming long-held misunderstandings of them.

Brief Thoughts on Leaving Behind the Ladder of Hierarchy Mentality

Modern industrialized cultures continue to be so invested in the dynamic of dominance by some over others, who, according to their gender, skin color, and assortment of other characteristics (such as socioeconomic status), are each placed somewhere along the rung of an ancient hierarchical ladder. Every nation has its own nuanced version of this set up. I’ve spent much of my adulthood empowering people— including myself— to get away from this ladder mentality as much as possible. Clearly, many would rather kill and be killed than give up this outdated, harmful worldview.

Brief Thoughts on School Grades and Success in Life

Throughout my compulsory schooling, my academic performance was generally poor until my last two years of high school. I went on to graduate from a good state college with Honors in my major (psychology) and, sometime later, earned a Masters degree from the school of my choice, which is nationally respected in the field I’m in (social work). My point here is that I’m a living example among many of how academic performance throughout a child’s development is not the best determinant for her/his/their later success in life. Far from it. Valuing school grades can be over-emphasized and needlessly anxiety-ridden for everyone concerned.

When a child gets low grades on a school progress report, here’s something she/he/they could really benefit hearing from a parent: “You’re not as good or as bad as your grades. You’re still wonderful. I love you no matter what.”

Mini Movie Review (PEEPING TOM)

PEEPING TOM (1960), starring Carl Boehm and directed by Michael Powell, is right up there with PSYCHO (also 1960) in regards to being creepy, psychologically disturbing, and well-done— if not more so with all of those descriptors. Probably due to the film’s very harsh reception when first released, it’s not so generally well known as Hitchcock’s contemporary masterpiece. There is a scene I found especially memorable in which a blind, middle aged woman (Maxine Audley) confronts the main character (Boehm), a misogynistic voyeur and sociopath, while he watches silent footage of a murder he recently committed and filmed.

This is not a movie for everyone, including the particularly squeamish, though it’s artfully crafted and stylized, well acted, and intriguingly written. For those, like me, who especially enjoy the medium of film, this great cinema project plays with camera work, darkness, light, and both still and motion photography in clever and thought-provoking ways. All of these elements within PEEPING TOM serve as a powerful expression of the seemingly razor thin, often titillating dance between vibrant, fragile life and the finality of death. Profound impacts of child abuse and dark implications of voyeurism, such as objectification of women and how we, the film viewers, are also voyeurs, are all intuitively explored.

Brief Thoughts on Elitism and Education

Staying with this reflection about how in group/out group tribalism pervades human thinking and behavior (such as what I posted about yesterday, re: religion and spiritual paths), I’ve been concerned for a long while about elitism and education. I think it’s a common element of classism, this belief that achieving a formal, higher education equals reaching the highest level of evolution as a human being and those without such experience, and subsequent awarded degrees behind their names, fall short somehow. Hence, such individuals are stunted, less than. (They are then to be pitied, which, of course, is so patronizing.) It’s an embedded extreme assumption I grew up around and have intentionally spent years steadily releasing from my psyche. I think this belief by many in the educated middle and upper classes has actively contributed to a lot of the white working class alienation and subsequent anger we’ve witnessed channeled through the rise of Trumpism in recent years.

There are many other ways to view success and human evolvement besides through the lens of formal education achievement, right down to taking in each person’s own strengths and laudable ability to live their own lives as best they can day to day— whether they happen to have a college degree or didn’t finish high school.