What two things do we all possess, two things that work separately but in harmony with each other? They have an interdependent relationship for neither can survive without the other. Have you got the answer yet? I am talking about the brain and the heart.
The brain is a complex organ constructed to perform myriad functions, whilst the heart is in effect a simpler affair, working efficiently as a muscle and a pump, literally pumping iron night and day. Its four chambers are the powerhouse for all our life blood.
The steady rhythm of our mother’s heartbeat is the first sound we ever hear.
I heard the expression ‘head knowledge and heart knowledge’ for the first time the other day. It was in the context of understanding our approach to faith. Head knowledge can be described as gathering information prosaically, akin to learning by rote. Heart knowledge is more about revelation, those lightbulb moments when you say, “Ahh, now I understand. Now I really get it!” and this is something well applied to the study of works of faith such as the Bible.
Further, head knowledge relates to our capacity for learning, while heart knowledge is about the wisdom gained from life experiences, both good and bad.
Following on from this, I imagined how the brain and heart might discuss how they cope with grief.
Heart begins, “I am aching with loss. I am broken, fractured … I have to work just as hard as usual but I am tired. I am sick. How can I ever recover?”
Brain replies, “Yes, I already know you are in a dark place. So am I. I cannot get away from constantly playing and replaying events. I am not only living every day in grief, I am constantly thinking about grief and sadness too. I am a DVD stuck on a loop. Round and round we go, it is just so exhausting!”
Heart says, “Well, it’s OK for you. You can switch off when you want to. I can’t do that. Even though I am broken, I have to work the same way as I did before, powering on regardless. I am the one who is stuck on a treadmill”.
“You talk of switching off?” Brain retorts. “In your dreams, heart. This loss is with me every second of every day. Awake or asleep, I have to deal with triggers, memories, sights, sounds and scents, all of which conspire to remind me of that which I have lost. All you need to do is to keep on pumping. Huh!”
“Keep on pumping, you really think that is all I do?” (Heart is beating faster now). “Just remember brain, that I am the repository for love, affection, emotion and personality. I can melt at a kind word or cry at a sharp retort. If you think about it, I am the one who holds the key to the soul, not you”.
Brain is quiet for a moment, considering this. “Ah yes, but just remember, that without my intellect to process what you do, you wouldn’t even know your purpose. Ha, what have you got to say to that?”
Heart heaves a sigh and triple beats for a few seconds. “You think you are so clever brain, don’t you? And I guess you are. But it is only when your facts reach me, when I process them into feelings and sentiments, that there is any benefit. Together we create something that is more spiritual than prosaic”.
Brain replies, “The bottom line is that we need each other to sift, process and balance the knowledge that comes our way. And we need one another to pull together through those dark moments when we can’t see the light. We need to acknowledge our sadness and use our disparate abilities to press on forward. That’s how we can deal with this”.
“And I am there for you, brain, in the quiet of the night when you need a hug, you know that don’t you? I can flutter, I can beat, I can race and I can just quietly potter along in the background for you. I can be whatever you need at any given time. You only have to say”.
“I hear you, dear heart”, says brain finally. “I guess we are in this together for the long haul, then”.
“Yes,” replies heart, “until it is decreed that it is time for us to stop working then we will both take our onward journey side by side, do you agree”?
Brain replies with a single word. “Symbiosis”.
And they settle comfortably into silence.