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Hans Decoz

What the Heart is Made Of

When we use expressions like "that really touched my heart," or "I
left my heart in San Francisco," we all understand that we are not
talking about that all-important organ in our rib cage, but a vaguely
understood area in the vicinity of said organ where we feel things that
are extremely subtle or so powerful it actually feels like a physical
pain. The reality is, though, that we don't have a clue what that heart
(not the organ) really is.

There are probably thousands of books, documentaries, studies and
research projects focused on the brain. We know quite a bit about how it
works -- the billions and billions of neurons shooting information back
and forth, for example. We can map its activities and watch the
electricity it produces glow on a monitor. We can slice it and dice it
and study it under a microscope. It is a complex chunk of matter, and
can therefore be altered, destroyed and maybe even in whole or part
recreated.

The heart -- that invisible cathedral of feelings -- doesn't get
anywhere near that much attention. In fact, the idea of "studying the
heart" is somewhat ludicrous. I am not interested in romance and
heartaches, emotional issues, or any of that, at least not as it relates
to the heart as the seat of love and compassion, gratitude and
devotion, and happiness and sadness. What intrigues me is the mystery of
the heart. The brain is pretty amazing and mind-boggling (pun
intended). It is a beautiful example of the seemingly unlimited capacity
of this creation to produce complex matter. But ... it is matter, and I
can more or less wrap my head around it (sorry, I couldn't help
myself).

The heart is a whole different thing. It seems to exist in space, not
in matter. When you feel love or gratitude, that feeling does not
appear to be located in your brain. It feels as if it exists somewhere
in the general area between your lower ribs and your neck. You can't
pinpoint it, and yet it is just as real as anything material that you
can see and touch. There is no denying its existence. When you watch a
feel-good movie, that is what happens: you feel good, it feels good and
that feeling lives somewhere in or around or in front of your chest. Of
course, there are quite a few people who think of our feelings as
nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain, or they have some
other "logical" explanation. That is not how it feels to me at all. When
we feel love or compassion, it almost seems to be the opposite; it
lives far from the brain and mind. We have thoughts, naturally, that
come as a result of what we are feeling, and there are feelings that are
the product of our thoughts. And yet, the two seem to exist on opposite
ends of the spectrum. Thoughts are like bits of lightning: they come
and go almost randomly, and by themselves don't affect us much -- as
long as they don't produce feelings. Feelings, on the other hand, take
on a life of their own. They don't come quick as lightning, nor do they
jump all over the place. (If they do, you have a problem of a different
kind.) When you watch a documentary about people hit by some terrible
tragedy, the feeling of compassion can sit there, wherever that is, for a
long time. Similarly, when you feel gratitude, it brings a sense of
peace and contentment that can hang around for awhile.

Perhaps by now, you are wondering where I am going with this. It
seems to me that while we are thoroughly impressed with the complexity
of the brain, we are not remotely as overwhelmed by the presence of the
heart. That is a pity because when you think about it, the phenomenon of
the heart (not the organ) far outweighs and overshadows the relatively
puny miracle of the brain. I know ... this is blasphemy in the eyes of
our intellectuals and intellectual wannabes, but when you take a good
look, the heart is, by far, the most impressive piece of this immaculate
creation. A case could be made that it is not the mind, not even the
soul, but that vague thing we call the heart that should be viewed as
the highlight and true focus of this creation.

The brain/mind concept is a logical, sensible and necessary part of
creation. It helps us forage for food, make fire, build shelter and
much, much more. As with anything else, when you practice it you become
good at it, so it evolved and, over the many millennia that we have been
using our brains, the brain has now reached a point where it is
absolutely and totally amazing what it can do. It can put a person on
the moon, write heart-breaking poetry, make beautiful music and design
lightning fast computers. It can also build very efficient weaponry and
then use that to kill thousands of people. The brain is cold as ice. If
the heart doesn't have a say in the matter, people can justify the need
to bomb villages and commit all kinds of atrocities.

The soul also makes some sense ... if you are inclined to believe
that such a thing exists. It is generally viewed as the immortal part of
us, the one that leaves our bodies at the end of our lives, and moves
on to … and just go ahead and fill in the blank: heaven, hell, another
human body, an animal body, another planet, fantasy land, a timeless
dream state, nirvana, judgment day or anything else your MIND has
convinced you to be the TRUTH. A little ironic, don't you think, that we
allow that mediocre and far from flawless invention called the brain
with help of that equally imperfect mind to use their oh-so-finite
resources to tell us about the infinite. It's kind of like trying to use
a tape measure to determine how many molecules exist in this universe.

The heart ... now there is the true hero of my story. First off, I
would like to point out that it doesn't have a logical reason to exist.
Sex by itself would have been quite sufficient to inspire us to
procreate; love -- a product of the heart -- really is just icing on the
cake. Perhaps we would have been more murderous throughout history.
Then again, perhaps not. The logical mind, all by itself and without
help of the heart, might have convinced us that more is better, so let's
slow down with the wars and such. In fact, if you believe the
scientists of this world, the brain/mind thing holds the solution to
everything, not that feminine, weak, subtle, hard-to-pinpoint thing we
call the heart. And yet, the heart is where the buck truly stops. Not
the mind. Not even the soul. After all, the one thing each and every one
of us needs more than anything else, is a feeling -- a feeling of
contentment, of joy, of happiness. To the brain/mind partnership, the
bottom line is always something material, just like the brain itself
exists on the material plane. It therefore wants a fancy car, a ton of
money, kids, a big house, a yacht and more and more and more and more.
The only time the all too finite mind reaches something approaching
infinity, it is in its ability to want. That never seems to end. The
yacht is never big enough, there is never enough money and so on. A
dubious quality, that is.

Obviously, the mind is not smart enough to fill a bucket. It keeps
pouring water in it when anyone can see there is a big hole in the
bottom.

The heart sees things very differently. When it is filled with
contentment, there is no more want. When it feels even a little bit of
gratitude, that translates into happiness. When it feels compassion, it
exists in a state of beauty. When it feels joy, there is no room for
anything else. Look at a newborn baby. The brain/mind duo is pretty much
silent, but the heart spills over. And we, grownups with fully
developed, noisy brains, stand around that little wonder while our own
hearts are getting touched. In fact, the reason we stand and stare at
the baby is because we so love that feeling of our hearts being touched.

I won't deny that there is a lot of madness in this world -- the kind
of evil that makes no sense and breaks our hearts. I don't believe that
to mean that there are people who don't have a heart. I think their
brains/minds are so loud and out of whack that the subtle voice of the
heart simply doesn't stand a chance. Perhaps that is something to
consider: keep your mind as quiet as possible so the voice of your heart
can be heard loud and clear.

Here then, is my theory, and please, keep in mind that my theory too
is produced by the comic duo that lives between my ears: perhaps our
Creator, when it was only Him (or Her or It) that existed, desired to
FEEL. Otherwise, there is only death. Without FEELING -- happy or sad or
anywhere in between -- everything is cold. So He went about creating a
universe, stuffing it with all kinds of things as a foundation for his
master piece (LOL), the human being, in order that through them, as He
lives inside of every one of them, He would be able to absorb and
experience feelings. Sure, those humans are a work in progress. I don’t
know how He handles all the negative feelings humans experience. My
guess is, His perspective allows Him to let those run off Him like water
off a duck while he feasts on the feelings of love, compassion,
devotion, gratitude, and the inevitable result of those feelings:
happiness! You see, our Creator too, wants to be happy. Hence the human
race (and perhaps animals and other living things, but I don't know
about them). Therefore, following my theory, you and I have a job to do:
to be happy! You want to sacrifice to Him? Show Him your love
and devotion? Better get on with feeling happiness so He can feast on
your happiness. It's truly a win-win situation.