Have you ever thought about your heart? Maybe from time-to-time you give it a passing thought, but most people rarely think about it until something goes awry. Then, all of a sudden, it becomes the most important thing in your life—it becomes your life in a real and tangible way. You realize that this normally quiet part of your body gives you life and without it…well, you’re dead! Fortunately, for most of us, we don’t have to keep a constant vigil as to the health of this vital organ. It does its business, silently in the background, rarely seeking any attention. Year after year, day after day, minute after minute, it just keeps pumping that precious fluid through the intricate maze of our circulatory system.
It seems to be no wonder why for eons, the heart was considered to be the center of the human consciousness. An innumerable amount of poems, ballads and songs have incorporated the heart into their prose to evoke emotions of happiness, sadness, elation and, yes, love. How could anyone not think that love resides in the heart? Consider this: when you think of that one person with whom you have fallen in love, is it your head that starts thumping like a wild bull? No it’s the heart! Now, being one who has previously worked in the medical field, I know that the racing of the heart is from the release of adrenaline by the autonomic nervous system. With all that said, it is unquestionable that the sensation is solely “heart-felt.”
February is iconized by the heart. This, of course, is because the major holiday that is celebrated during this month is St. Valentine’s Day—the day set aside for lovers and romance. The funny thing is that the holiday did not start out that way. It wasn’t until the 14th century, when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in his poem, The Parliament of Birds, these words, “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” that people began to see this day of celebration as one for love and affection. Traditions began to develop from this newfound notion, with the exchanging of letters, confections and other symbols of love and adoration. “But what’s that got to do with the heart?” you ask. Well, one of the trinkets often given by one lover to another was a key, a key to their heart, the seat of what was considered the essence of that person. (Just a prompt here—right about now, you should be contentedly sighing, “Ahhh, how sweet!”)
Okay, I know; it’s a stretch. But that is the origin of the connection between the heart and love. But, you know, maybe the heart is a good icon for love. Not just any love, mind you, but real, true, unadulterated love. Here’s how I see that—the heart is relentless with its power to prevail and persevere, through the best of times and the worst of times, to supply all it can with the gift of life…and so is love. As a man named Paul once said to the fledgling church in a town named Corinth, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13.4-8a)