The Heart of the Matter

By Phil La Borie

Poor Alfalfa, he’s in love again. Porky, from Our Gang*

Yes, ain’t it a shame. Buckwheat, another Gang member

Those of us who are past middle age probably recall the long-running Our Gang movie series.

These days, if you want to see the original movies, which were produced in the 1930s and ‘40s, they’re readily available on DVD and occasionally appear on the Turner Movie Channel.

For me, they still have a wonderful naiveté and charm to them. However, if you do decide to have a look, you’ll have to overlook the racial stereotyping, which is very much in evidence.

That said, my favorite character in the series is Alfalfa, a tall, skinny, white kid about ten years old, with an improbable cowlick sticking straight up from the top of his head.

I relate to Alfalfa because he reminds me so much of myself when I was his age. I too was tall and skinny, was supposed to wear my glasses, but wouldn’t, and as a consequence had to go to the front of my school room to read what was written on the blackboard!

Talk about embarrassing! You’d think that I would simply put the darned lenses on and admit that I needed to wear them, but then, I’ve always been a slow learner.

I also had an awful cowlick and even though I was terribly bashful around girls, I usually had a crush on at least one of them.

Unfortunately, the objects of my affection never seemed to notice that I was even on the same planet, let alone display any feelings for me.

All of which led to a string of what felt like irreparably broken hearts on my part. Haven’t we all been through them? At the time, they can be absolutely devastating, but seen in the rear view mirror of our lives, how important were they really?

With that in mind, since February is Cupid’s month and with Valentine’s Day as its focal point; I thought it might be a good time to remind ourselves about healthy heart practices and explore additional ideas about how to care for our hearts – both physically and emotionally.

A ton of words has already been written about the importance of developing and maintaining good physical, sleep and eating habits so I won’t be adding to that advice here. If you want to learn more, you can easily access the information in print and online.

In my case, in addition to trying to follow healthy eating and sleeping regimens (or at least keeping them in mind), I’ve added T’ai Chi exercises to my workout routine. T’ai Chi, while widely practiced in the Far East since ancient times, has now become a popular pursuit in the West as well.

The reason for the increased interest in our part of the world is because T’ai Chi is focused on raising an internal energy within us called Chi. Believe it or not, you can feel that energy forming in the end of your fingers in the simplest of the warm-up exercise.

T’ai practitioners claim that raising Chi will benefit your overall health and bring more peace and joy into your life. They also say that regular practice will improve circulation and add strength, balance, flexibility, concentration and years to your life.

And perhaps, even improve your love life!

In any case, T’ai Chi movements are relatively easy to learn and the slow moving routine is suitable for all ages and ability levels.

As an added bonus, the names of the opening moves are about as romantic as it gets – Opening the Door, Embracing the Moon, Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane.

Poetry in motion for sure! What’s not to like?

In addition, I’ve found that going though the movements on a Grand Strand beach early in the morning, or at sunset, can be a very rewarding and at least a semi-romantic experience. Best of all, it’s absolutely free. (Well, almost free, you might have to pay a small parking fee.) However, not only do you get to enjoy our lovely beaches without the crowds, but you can benefit from the exercises and the fresh air.

I’d suggest that rather than attempting to learn T’ai Chi on your own by following the movements on DVDs (I find that it can get very confusing), you enroll in a local class. There are a number of them in the area. Just go on the ‘Net and look under T’ai Chi Classes in Myrtle Beach.

I’ve also added some Chi Quong movements to my workout. These simple exercises are an easy way to increase flexibility, add to your sense of calmness and improve internal cleansing. They are a great warm-up for your T’ai Chi practice.

Finally, the Tao Te Ching (“The Way”) describes our lives as being passengers in a small boat bobbing on a sea of sorrow. How’s that for a quick summary of the human condition?

According to “The Way,” it is our individual responsibility to take control of our boat so that we can chart our course on this sea of troubles, achieve our individual goals (including mending broken hearts), create and maintain a sense of calm and purpose, and in that way, be in a position to do good for others.

And that’s really the heart of the matter – to get out of our own personal sense of loss, frustration and complaints with life in general and do good unto others.

I’m not sure that Alfalfa’s love life would have benefited by practicing T’ai Chi and/or Chi Quong (even if he had any idea what they were), but maybe they could have helped.

That said, Spanky MacFarland, the Gang’s ring leader may have had the most useful advice to the lovelorn when he said, “For the love of Pete, just kiss him so I can go to sleep!”**

Now there’s a man after my own heart.

*The Little Ranger, 1938, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

** Fish Hooky, 1933, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

About this writer

  • Phil La Borie Phil La Borie is an award-winning writer/artist based in Garden City, South Carolina. His work has been published in AdWeek, The Kaiser-Permanente Journal, Westworld Magazine and online at Phil is the 2015 winner of the Alice Conger Patterson Award offered through the Emrys Foundation. He can be reached at

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