Hearts and brains


I believe it with all my heart.

This is a no-brainer.

Poetry and science have never been on a collision course, and perhaps they never will, despite some clumsy attempts to hatch an ars poetica of science. Perhaps they never should.

The language of love, affection and spiritual thinking we inherited is cardio-centric, even though we now know the heart to be nothing more than a V8 engine of the body, precious, untiring but ultimately fragile and fading. We know the brain is the seat of pretty much everything we poetically associate with the heart, except perhaps for heartbeat speed, cardio-rich emotions and few others.

The brain, on the other hand, plays second fiddle in the grand concert of emotions and affections. If the heart is the seat of feeling, being and the soul, then the brain is that of thinking. The heart is hot, the brain is cool. You feel with your heart, but you think with your brain, and the clash comes sooner or later, it is inevitable.

Some poems from the Renaissance are written in heart-shaped micrography. That’s where the letters of the poem are arranged in the shape of a heart. Imagine writing a micrographic poem in the shape of a brain. Or offering an (admittedly less cliched) brain-shaped cushion to your loved one. Or a red rose and a grey plastic brain.

I like to think that our ancestors didn’t focus on the heart out of scientific ignorance – as it is believed –, but because they had an insight into what the heart really is and what it really does. Yes, the heart is but a muscle pumping blood in and waste out of our bodies. But that is no mere task, for in doing so, the heart, and not the brain, holds up a mirror to the simplicity of our own being, a muscle thrown out into the world, and commanded to pulsate no matter what, out of habit or with purpose, to the very end, in tune with the oscillatory movement of the universe, while the brain, with its Swiss-watch complexity and million moving parts, is hardly an icon of the curse as well as the blessing of our existence.

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