The Importance of the Heart-to-Heart Conversation

“Heart to heart conversations is called just that in English because they come from a good place…”

It can be hard these days to have a genuine one-on-one conversation with someone else. With all the distractions in our daily lives, our rush to get things done, our need to have instant gratification, it can be increasingly harder and harder to take a step back to take stock of what’s important in your life including the family and the friends closest to you. I believe this cheapens the kind of conversations we can have with those closest to us due to our other pressing concerns in life, but it is important to prevent those relationships from being shallow by engaging in those heart-to-heart conversations. While difficult and not easy to do, they are often the most rewarding.

Real conversations are different in the sense that they are go over topics that may be uncomfortable yet gratifying, ones that may sting a little but whose honesty cut through the fake compliments or the trivial topics that so often guide our discourse with others. Heart to heart conversations is called just that in English because they come from a good place and while those kinds of topics addressed are not all sunshine and rainbows, these conversations are vital in their importance and can often help the people involved to feel better about their lives or at least their current circumstances.

Shallow and often fake conversations focus on the trivial and inconsequential. They often don’t get to the ‘heart’ or who someone is, where they are in life, or where they plan on going. It’s good at times to have light conversations about the weather, sports, or the latest fashion trend. However, those kinds of conversations do not really drive a relationship forward and are often built on a foundation of sand. I say this because friendships that focus on those kinds of topics don’t really address important matters and thus cannot really create a strong relationship of mutual trust and understanding.

You may have a friend who is a big sports fan such as yourself and you enjoy going to basketball games together and like to talk about who your favorite players are but if you never actually broach other topics that touch upon that person’s life, then they aren’t really a true friend in my view. If you can’t have a heart-to-heart beyond a few shared interests, then that is not a strong relationship that is going to last a while. It may be good to start with basketball as a primary part of one’s friendship but the longer you get to know someone, you should discuss other things with them such as talking about where they grew up, what their family is like, what they enjoy doing for their profession or for fun, what their goals or dreams may be, and even what they worry about or what they want to improve upon in their lives.

Those kinds of conversations really build a much more solid kind of foundation of a friendship or a relationship and will last a lot longer than just talking about the same topic repeatedly. In these heart-to-heart talks, it may be awkward at first as most people are shy and wary about letting their personal barriers down but once you can with their permission, you can really build up a positive relationship especially if you both are open and vulnerable to each other. In a heart-to-heart, you should not be sarcastic or dismissive but rather to listen intently, ask questions, let the other person express themselves and while you can be honest with them in response, don’t try to judge them too much but rather as the popular saying goes, try to think of what you would do in their shoes.

I believe it is also important to be direct with that person once you start to open up with one another and to not simply ‘beat around the bush.’ Express your true point of view and tell them how you would approach the situation whether it’s trying to accomplish a goal, or sorting out a personal manner, or trying something new that is stressing the other person out. Always listen first, ask good questions, and then give your most honest response back, which even if they disagree, the person you’re having the heart-to-heart with should value your feedback and be appreciative that you listened to them on a serious topic.

In my view, Heart-to-heart conversations are so utterly lacking in our culture that when they do happen, it is a shock for most people because they never have received that kind of candid or honest feedback that’s been missing from their lives. It allows those who engage in the conversation to evaluate their options more, weigh the advice or feedback given, and perhaps make a wiser or better decision from having good counsel from a serious friend or family member who is doing their best to look out for your interests.

It is beneficial to seek out people in your life who are acquaintances and look to see if they are capable of a heart-to-heart conversation. If you prefer to have talks on trivial topics only, you can do so but I think you truly only grow as an individual when you spend time with people where you can broach serious topics with and not be rebuffed for doing so. It is a sign of a true friendship or a good family relation when you can let your guard down to discuss something that happened to you, either good or bad, and that person will not judge you right way or shut you down without hearing all that it is that you have to say to them.

Having mature and responsible friends and family members around to talk about serious topics including even politics, religion, philosophy on life, finances, etc. are vital to helping to make you a much more well-rounded person too. These topics are not easy to discuss but ignoring them entirely or not having anyone to reach out to discuss them from time to time can be detrimental to a person’s well-being in terms of their own growth or cause them to seek out advice from people they don’t know or worse who would try to take advantage of them instead.

It goes without saying that a mature adult should be responsible for forming those serious friendships and relationships with their own initiative, but they should also get the same back from that person who is open to having heart-to-heart talks. You may not like to hear what they say to you or like the advice being given but at least you are getting that kind of feedback in the first place on a serious topic beyond sports, reality TV, or celebrity gossip. It is a good feeling to have someone who can be relied upon when you have a major decision to make and want some counsel, or when you are going through a hard time and have someone to reach out to. Those kinds of conversations are increasingly rare in our society, but they are perhaps the most important kinds of conversations to have and for which you’ll often be better off for having had them in the first place.

Do yourself a favor and start to think of those people in your life who you’ve only had shallow conversations with and begin to probe a little bit to see if you can discuss more serious or personal topics with. It is likely to be a slow-moving process and that’s okay. However, the more you get to know someone, the easier it should be to form a real friendship based on mutual trust and respect and for which heart-to-heart conversations should be a natural result. I think your mental health will also be much better off knowing that you really have someone like a friend or a family member who you can talk honestly with and have a real conversation on life, love, failure, success, goals, happiness, etc., which you would not discuss with the average acquaintance or new contact.

The Heart-to-Heart conversation is the toughest one that you can have in life, but it is also the most important to have with someone else. If you neglect it, I believe you are likely to be worse off than before but if you start having them from time to time with someone who you value, there is no reason to think why you wouldn’t have a better life from having had them.

‘The Last Samurai’ – Film Review and Analysis

‘The Last Samurai’ (2003) is an epic drama film that takes place in a unique period of Japan’s history and highlights the conflict between modernization and tradition, between cultures, and also between different styles of warfare. However, it is not just the conflicts that are highlighted in this film but also the cooperation and the understanding that can happen as well in certain aspects such as between cultures. While this film is not specifically based on a true story, it is based on a number of true events that took place in the latter half of the 19th century for Japan and highlights the role of Western influence in Japan during the period of the Meiji Restoration or Reforms.

The main character, Nathan Algren (played brilliantly by Tom Cruise) is a Captain in the United States Army of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Nathan is a veteran of the American – Indian Wars and perhaps the Civil War as well. He is a bitter man who is suffering from trauma related to the atrocities committed against the Indian tribes during these brutal battles. When the film starts, we can see that Nathan is an alcoholic who is regretful over the orders that he had to follow and what happened to innocent Indian women and children whose lives were disregarded by his commanding officers.

However, for lack of purpose or money, or perhaps both, Nathan is recruited by his former commanding officer, Colonel Bagley, whom Nathan still resents for his role in the Indian massacres, to help train Japanese soldiers in the Western way of combat to put down the Samurai rebellion, which is ongoing in Japan. Algren is dealt a bad hand as he has to train peasants and not actual soldiers who are firing guns for the first time and would be better suited to the farms than to the battlefield.

In addition to that, he is expected to lead them soon into battle against the Samurai for which they do not have enough time to prepare. One of themes of this film is how good men are often corrupted by following misguided orders by their superiors and often end up harmed, captured, or killed for the negligence or ignorance of those with a higher rank. Nathan is a good soldier, but he cannot train peasants into soldiers in the time that is given to him especially when he is not familiar with the ways of the Samurai and how lethal they can be compared to his peasant conscripts.

In the battle between his soldiers and the Samurai, the Samurai end up killing most of them through surprise attacks and then an ambush in a refusal to fight the way of the ‘modern’ army that Nathan has assembled. One of Nathan’s fellow American army colleagues is killed in the battle while most of his army is decimated. Undeterred and with nothing to live for, Nathan fights the Samurai ferociously and is able to hold his own. Instead of killing him, the Samurai’s leader, Katsumoto, decides to capture Nathan instead and hold him as their prisoner. Unbeknownst to Nathan, Katsumoto sees something in Nathan and believes that he is a good warrior, who although tries to kill the Samurai, may be one of them due to his capacity to fight to the last breath.

At first, Nathan is not treated kindly by the Samurai given that he is a former enemy and that he also killed the husband of Katsumoto’s sister who resents Ethan’s presence in their village. Nathan also has his preconceptions and stereotypes regarding the Samurai and their culture. Over time though, Nathan starts to acclimate to his new life as a prisoner. He embraces the Japanese language and culture as well as earns the respect of the other Samurai by learning swordsmanship as well as how to train with others.

He also finds he has an affection for Katsumoto’s sister and ends up befriending her son as well. While it is not easy, he gains an appreciation for the Samurai and their way of life. He even begins to resent the modernity and the loss of the tradition that is being imposed on them by the imperial Japanese government. In this way, ‘The Last Samurai’ does an excellent job what it means to ‘go native.’

When you live in another country for long enough, you start to really embrace certain aspects of the culture and also if you take a liking to the language, you may realize you may want to stay there now that you’re acclimated rather than return to a home culture or country whose flaws become so visible to see when you were blind before to them. This movie does a great job of showing ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and how powerful it can be over time especially if you have a romantic interest in a woman or a man after a long enough period of time.

Algren is also no longer haunted by the nightmares of what he experienced during the Indian wars and has also forgone alcohol as he has found other ways to sustain himself while living with the Samurai. Perhaps most importantly, he develops a friendship with the Samurai’s leader, Katsumoto, who explains to Nathan their worldview and while preserving their 1000-year heritage is so important to them all. Nathan agrees with them and starts to see how important the ways of the Samurai are to Japanese culture and customs themselves.

The biggest turning point in the film is when Nathan begins to fight alongside the Samurai against attacks by both Ninjas, which one of the coolest scenes I have ever watched still. It is an amazing scene when you have Samurai battling with Ninjas and it is a very powerful point in the movie to show Nathan help save Katsumoto’s life. The Samurai are so dedicated to their way of life that they will die or commit ‘seppuku’ (suicide) to preserve their honor.

Without giving away the rest of the film, we can see that the Japanese emperor is being betrayed by big business interests and Western nations in the rapid attempt to modernize. While Japan was right in that it needed to catch up in areas of commerce and warfare, it is also important to remember the ways of the Samurai and to remember their customs as well. It is not right to destroy an important part of their culture and erase it from the history books.

That is what the Samurai leader, Katsumoto, and also Nathan wanted to preserve even if they knew that they were fighting a losing battle. A culture’s customs must be remembered, and its history remembered by all even if the country is to go in a new direction. ‘The Last Samurai’ makes it clear that even if there are no more Samurai, their memory must be retained in the national consciousness and it is important for Japan to not be belittled or bullied around by other powers. Receiving western advice, arms, and goods was a paramount need at that time but not at the sake of destroying a part of Japan that made it a special nation to begin with.

‘The Last Samurai’ is a powerful film because it reminds us all how customs and traditions form the backbone of a country’s culture and its’ history. While nations shift and change, the traditions and customs should never be forgotten by its people. That is the main message of the film and why the Samurai fought and died to preserve their place in Japanese society rather than be changed into something they are not. Becoming ‘Western’ because they had to be was an insult to them and something, they were against in an effort to remain as ‘Samurai’ in whatever capacity they could in order to serve the emperor.

It is a powerful film and also shows the redemption of Nathan Algren who went from a drunken soldier without purpose to a powerful Samurai commander who was able to integrate himself as best as he could into a foreign culture and even earn the love of a woman whose husband’s life he had ended. ‘The Last Samurai’ has many themes to it and each one of them are powerful. Remembering traditions, seeking vengeance, earning one’s redemption are all themes to the film and make it stand out still today as one of the best films of the 2000’s and maybe of this young century still. I hope you will check it out soon and please always remember the Samurai.