What does it mean to have a heart?
I ask this seriously–not necessarily in the literal sense–as I know what it means to have a biological pump inside my chest pumping nearly 2000 gallons of blood through my meat puppet each day..
Rather, I mean the metaphorical heart that people always refer to… the thing that is sometimes in opposition to the head.. that is sometimes lost.. and that we sometimes are said to give away.
What is that thing? Obviously we humans have a rich metaphorical relationship to it… but it is something that I’m not really closely in touch with.
If anything, the only time that I ever really notice that it exists is when it disappears by means of some suddent emotional trauma–then I do, kinda, understand the sense of a heart being lost, as it feels hollow in my chest.. as if something in there has imploded under some some great weight and collapsed in on itself, creating a sense of vacuum and emptiness… Usually, the emptiness rececdes and eventually the hollowness is gone… But then it’s just back to normal…
To approach the topic from a different direction, the sense that there is some sort of core emotional seat of agency that can have an effect on my perceptions or actions.. that’s really quite foreign to me… I don’t have emotional responses to 98% of things initially–even really threatening or normally emotional things–at those moments–I become entirely emotionless, actually.. I become a robot.. or a demon ( more of a daemon or something like Felix’s “engine” in John Steakley’s novel Armor ) and I deal with the situation without any real emotional connection. It is only much later–if at all–that I register any kind of emotional response to the events that occurred priorly…
This is the opening context for setting up my reading of this quote found on a friend’s page:
“I can’t be selective or precious with my heart, I want to crack it open on the sidewalk and scatter its million pieces.”
This quote is not, in my understanding, from my friend–but from another… But what is interesting to me is the mental response it created in me.
First, it generated an introspective thought about the kinds of metaphors that we use for our hearts. I wondered if the person thought of their heart as being like glass–as something that can shatter. Then I wondered if these pieces that she was scattering.. if that was a gift to others… and if so.. what about her own heart? Would it grow back? If so, how and why? What about other kinds of metaphors for hearts? Would a fluid heart be better? A heart of Stone? What about a flexible heart? And what would that even mean? These were my first group of responses…
Second, I thought about whether I had a heart that could do such a thing–and that’s when I realized that I have never conceptualized of my heart in a way that could ever be given away or taken or stolen or broken. Obviously, I can be hurt.. I can be damaged in ways that will then take time to heal–but my heart isn’t really something that I conceive of or, perhaps more importantly, feel that is a distinct entity or element that suffers such things.. As an example, when I love people–I don’t think of it as giving them my heart–but as trusting them with my life.. and giving them my full attention.. and as having access to my will to do things for them at any time.
I see them as integrated into my life and as part of me–but I don’t give them my heart… I give my mind to them.. and my body.. but my emotions–they are so secondary in most of my experience–that they aren’t really something that I either can or feel is appropriate to give…
Or maybe it’s all just that I have no heart.
Perhaps I’m a Tin Man.
Maybe that is the ticket. Maybe I have a brain, a body, and an Axe, which I am not afraid to use, but I don’t have a heart.
Now that.. that feels right.