Are We Evolving? The Sofia Loren Movie: It Started in Naples, helped me to see a few things.

July 12, 2021

Recently I took a short holiday with one of my children to Naples, the Amalfi Coast and Capri. It was beautiful, hot, tiresome, hopeful.  We saw some of the culture of Southern Italy that included its rich history and devotional spirituality. Here is a video I took while walking onto a little beach in Capri that shows a shrine to the Virgin Mary and Jesus. I think these Shrines and churches, art works and sculptures of the same imagery, give hope to people and help them to remember what is important ~ The Mother, mostly. 

Make sure you see this video that I took on vacation!

It’s tricky to travel and see the world, even if you just go a short distance from wherever you call home. Add in being a single parent and trying to be a good mom is hard, at least it is  for me. Evolution on this planet seems to happen with forward moving momentum followed by partial reversals of that momentum.  I mention this because I think it relates to parenting. Ideally, adults have had the experience of love and support in their own childhood and follow through with these goods when they become parents. But that is the ideal. A lot of other things happen to children. The evolving motion or evolutionary line that we are pushing forward is not always where we think it should be.

I recently watched and was inspired by the classic Sofia Loren movie, It Started in Naples.  She portrays Lucia, a loving caregiver to Nando, her orphaned Nephew. She shows realistic expectations of herself while also being vulnerable. As a single parent she does several jobs to support the two of them, including performing in a local nightclub until late into the night. Due to the non traditional circumstances, Nando does not go to school, is barefoot throughout the movie, smokes cigarettes, drinks coffee, stays up well past midnight passing out handbills for her dance shows, sleeps in until noon and panhandles on the streets of Capri for money during the day. 

This movie was made in 1960 and the scenes, costumes and actors are indicative of that era. Many depictions are no longer thought to be “good parenting” in educated societies around the world. Shot on location in the sparsely populated island of Capri, Lucia’s neighbors are supportive and have no negative opinions about her. In fact, there is a strong feeling of support that the community holds for one another. 

To make the storyline interesting, in walks an American who considers Lucia’s parenting skills to be less than ideal and that they may even be preventing Nando from the better things that life has to offer.

The reality is that Nando is deeply loved and supported by his aunt, and they show mutual respect for each other in their own uniquely caring ways. Their small apartment includes a bedroom that they share with two beds, which often gives way to important conversations before falling off to sleep. The kitchen, considered in many cultures to be the center of the home, is small and comfortable and where there is always an enormous pot of boiling water on the stove ready for long strands of pasta. This room also is also where they do their ironing, dance and basically “live”. An old man always shows up at their table for meals and is part of the family ~ turns out he is the landlord. 

Lucia’s emotions are consistent and expected. She also creates a sense of fun and stability for their life with both spontaneity and careful planning. Her commitment to Nando provides a sense of supportive calm in their somewhat chaotic life ~ as they stay up late, argue and have very little money. 

Nando shows all the signs of secure attachment. He has the secure base of home and love from his aunt, which gives him a sense of calm and confidence to go out into the world and try and earn money for them. He is an intelligent, sensitive and confident child. If the acting portrayed in this movie isn’t enough to show this, then his words do, in his response to the American who offers to take him away from this terrible life, “ I have everything I need”.

Understanding people and cultures exactly as they are can be complicated. Figuring this out and then providing support that is relatable to them is ideal. When we create structures and ideas that parents (or people in general) have to “put on” it can be confusing and cause undue suffering. Something this world does not need more of. 

This idea of culture and knowing what to do in the face of “the ideals” or even “sacred teachings” reminds me of the response BKS Iyengar gave when a student asked,“Do we need to be Vegetarians to be yogis?” he replied, “Eat according to your culture”. He probably said more about this subject too, but that is all I remember.

When we travel, straying away from the well maintained touristy areas helps us to see the world. Seeing begets understanding and appreciation.

With the restrictions of Covid easing up, we can begin to travel again. As you wander out, look to see how people live their lives.  Perhaps this will allow you to expand your awareness (your evolution) and inspire you to believe in new ways. Your compassionate views will help to create a more peaceful and loving world. 

Evolving is not a straight line or even a consistent line, but I believe we are all evolving. I have hope.

Where are you in this process? If you are a parent how do you manage culture and your personal beliefs, ideas, behaviours?

If you are not a parent, how do you see the world and your understanding of what is “right” behavior and how do you get support?

Bibliography

Grille, Robin. IQ is Only Half the Picture: Cultivating your Child’s Emotional Intelligence. From Parenting for a Peaceful World. Downloaded from http://naturalchild.org/robin_grille/eq_3.html

Dan Siegel, MD – Parenting Attachment Styles: Secure, Ambivalent, Avoidant, Disorganized. Additional video on Mirror Neurons. YouTube Videos

Diana Divecha, Ph.D.,What is a Secure Attachment? And Why Doesn’t “Attachment Parenting” Get You There?

It Started In Naples, Director, Melville Shavelson, Paramount Pictures 1960 starring Sophia Loren and Clark Gable.