The heart is the strongest muscle in the human body. Its beauty and tenacity lies in the metaphors of love, loss, joy, heartache and the spectrum of emotion and intuition. Like the peaks and valleys of a measured heartbeat, such are the up’s and down’s of life and the feelings we experience from what we call our heart song. The heart has the ability to beat over 3 billion times in a person’s life. It is the hardest working muscle.
Unlike the brain, a grey mushy and soggy matter that is so disappointingly weak and defenseless that it requires a thick, hard skull and the warmth of a mop of hair for protection. The lazy brain is noted for its spectacular performance ability. However, most of the hype is just good public relations because studies show that the brain fails to capitalize on the usage available by operating at less than 1/10th of its potential.
The brain, which is rumoured to house the mind, has a cynical disposition of playing tricks on you. It distorts reality, needs a constant flow of high maintenance stimuli to function and demands rest every night or else it, like a typical union worker, goes on strike. It gets dependent on the formation of neurological pathways and overreacts when those routes are disrupted. The brain is a chemical drug factory and deposits addictive chemicals into our bloodstream causing us to falsely assume it really cares about our wellbeing. Does it really care? Or just want us to feel good? Think of a Curtis Mayfield whisper in the alley “You know me, I’m your friend, Your man boy, thick and thin. I’m your pusher man.”
If you use your brain to think about it, which is a scary and freakishly conscious thought to entertain, the brain’s awareness is only a part of a bigger picture of conscious activity. When Death Cab for Cutie said , “And when I see you, I really see you upside down. But my brain knows better, picks you up and turns you around”, they allude to the fact that when there is something missing, like a lack of colour, not to trust the brain and to investigate further. The brain cannot claim it is the whole picture of functionality simply because it consciously decides so. Even if it hates to admit it, the brain requires help from other sources to operate in conscious awareness. Yes, the brain is a “big deal” and an intellectual snob to say the least, but in order to see the picture in the first place, we also need eyes, head, body, blood flow, oxygen, etc.
Furthermore, life is not possible without the strength of the heart. The heart is able to beat completely on its own at around 50 beats per minute, because of the electrical impulses which are generated by the heart muscle. Without the heartbeat, we are dead. Full stop. Interestingly, people can live for extended periods of time being considered brain dead because like Celine Dion said, “Near, far, wherever you are I believe that the heart does go on.” She was right, and Canadian. Science proves it.
I trust my heart, thank you Celine, because it can take a beating (pun intended) and keeps getting stronger. In the cartoon above the mind asks “Do you ever learn?”. The answer would be, no. The heart doesn’t learn. That is a function of the brain. Why would the brain ask a question that it already knows the answer to? Condescending much? The heart ain’t got time to learn, brain, it’s too busy working! Why don’t you “learn” more from the heart about work ethic you lazy snobby elitist.
The hearts only purpose is to keep beating, keep beating, keep beating. Never stop, don’t stop, “Don’t stop til you get enough”, prevail under stress, adjust to levels of high and low activity, and keep beating. If the mental ability of the brain was as ambitious as the heart and still had those qualities listed above, we would be completely tortured by it. The heart gives us balance, strength in consistency and should be given way more R-E-S-P-E-C-T, respect, just a little bit, because it certainly has earned it.
In this symbolic and anthropomorphic rendering of our anatomy, I hope I have shed light on the beauty in the allegory. That the mind doesn’t have to control us like a self serving, drug pushing tyrant. That the heart is not longing for Leonardo DiCaprio day in day out with nothing better to do. That we, the consciousness that is aware of itself, is what we truly are. That is the “I” in “I am”. We are the immeasurable abstract and intangible energy between our cells, “The Space Between” says Dave Matthews. We are not the thoughts we have. We own and control them. They are our property and ultimately our responsibility. We are. We think. We feel. We act. We are powerful and divine and limitless in our ability to use our imagination to create a better world. “Imagine all the people living for today…” It’s easy if you try.
For you, dad. Your heart was the strongest and one of the sweetest songs I’ve ever heard. I miss you.
References and further reading to geek out to…
1. Brain Capacity and Function: http://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences//retrieve/pii/S1364661305001178?cc=y
2. Detecting Awareness and Cognition in a vegetative state: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5792/1402.short
3. What Is Consciousness?: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/188083uid=3739400&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21102943264653
1. Curtis Mayfield- “Pusherman”
2. Death Cab For Cutie- “A Lack Of Colour”
3. Celine Dion- “My Heart Will Go On”
4. Michael Jackson- “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”
5. Aretha Franklin- “Respect”
6. The Dave Matthews Band- “The Space Between”
7. John Lennon- “Imagine”