Mind Matters — A Psychologist Reads the Newspaper and Shakes Her Head

A psychologist reads the newspaper and shakes her head. Why do we go gaga over Lady Gaga above the fold (yipes, the print paper Philadelphia Inquirer) — and below the fold? The story is about lengths women pursue to look like celebrities such as Lady Gaga and die in the pursuit. (It seems that now big butts are de rigueur and injections to produce the wanted effect can kill.) And in a back section of the paper languishes the story of the laid off Camden policeman with a handicapped son who is in continual need of medical care.

Something is very askew here about our values, our priorities. We celebrate Valentine’s Day—all hearts and flowers—this week but where are our hearts really? What if Valentine’s Day would be more about developing a compassionate heart than a __________ __________. You may fill in the blanks however suits you.

This past Sunday, I gave a talk on Quiet Wisdom In Loud Times: Women of Heart Who Need To Be Heard.

Our loud times are full of stories about celebrities, the ideal sexy body, Botox, silicone surgeries, etc. The cliché, “To die for,” meanwhile, has become a real killer. Men and women both fall prey to the trap of following the mob media mentality. Women pursue what they believe is the sexy body men desire. And men, indeed, often objectify women into sexual play things.

We forget where true value lies—not in fleeting appearance, but in the hearts of both men and women. Some of us may remember the classic Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I remember seeing the movie version of it when I was a child. It had an impact. Dorian Gray sells his soul to the devil so that he can remain charmingly handsome, a beautiful, albeit narcissistic, specimen of a man, defying age. Meanwhile, the decay of his soul is being registered on his portrait hidden in the attic. There residing is his horrific visage that expresses all his ugliness within.

Perhaps because I am in my sixties, I am even more in wonderment about our culture of youth that denies death, fears age. I look back at my photos of even ten years ago and yes, I have definitely aged (and I especially miss my long thick hair!). But I also look back at youth, and know its folly. I know how women can blindly defer to what they think men want, give away their fierce identity for a look that is not theirs.

My mother used to say that no matter how old you are, within, your spirit is still young. Your heart aches for life. I know that the elderly (even older than I!) I see at a local retirement community don’t want to be dismissed and forgotten because they don’t look like their graduation or their wedding pictures. Still, within they carry their own unique aliveness.

We get blindsided by youthful bodies and body image and need to find the wisdom of our hearts again.

Two models of “hearts of wisdom” attended my talk on Sunday. I have known this couple for years—even before Kathryn contracted ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). She has lost all use of her body except for slight movements of her head by which she operates her computer. Her husband Gerry has been her most caring caretaker. They have a loving bond that goes beyond the bounds of body Their hearts and souls remain loving and giving to each other and to the world.

The quiet wisdom we need to hear is from the anonymous everyday people who face life with heart—whether they be the policeman worried about how to procure medical insurance for his son, or by friends living the limits of ALS, or what is deep within our own hearts if only we would listen.