11.27.2007

Mysteries of the Heart

I would have brushed it off as a bunch of bunk if I hadn't seen the link over at Scriptorium Daily. And maybe it still is a little fringe-y. Certainly not without its controversy. Still, it's really interesting.

You see, sometimes heart transplant patients undergo pretty significant personality changes. Which isn't really all that surprising, since a heart transplant is a rather huge event in a person's life. Near death experience followed by a newfound physical vigor--well, it'd be surprising if it didn't effect some sort of change in a person's soul.

Still, some of those changes are downright freakish... and consistent with the donor's characteristics. Thus the hypothesis that maybe--just maybe--the brain isn't the only place where we store thoughts, feelings and memories.

The implications are astonishingly profound, and so of course there's a lot of scepticism. Strangely enough, however, it was the SkepDic article that convinced me to take the idea seriously.

You see, according to the SkepDic, all the silliness is traceable back to Aristotle. We have all these absurd notions associating the heart with love and emotion because Aristotle wrongly postulated that the heart was the location of all our thoughts and feelings, while the brain was simply a fan to keep the heart nicely ventilated. Or something like that. I'm really not quite sure. Aristotle wrote plenty enough that's still important in it's own right, that I haven't exactly gotten around to reading those portions of his work that have been completely outdone by his followers. I'm just glad he started asking good questions, and glad others came along and found likelier answers.

So Aristotle thought that the heart was where it was all at, and the brain was just a pump to cool the heart. Modern medicine thinks that everything happens in the brain, and the heart is just a pump to feed the brain.

Come to think of it, it all sounds rather the same, and come to think of it, the poets have never believed either one. Poetry and experience have always told us that the head is the seat of rationality, the heart the seat of emotion, the intestines the seat of courage and fear. And I seem to recall the liver and the kidneys coming into play somewhere, but I never took it remotely seriously, because of course nowadays everyone knows that it all comes down to brain waves.

Not that I ever believed that we were reducible to brain waves. But I guess I always thought that our souls were connected to our brains, and our brains were connected to our bodies, and that the my experience of my body was something of an illusion, everything being mediated by my brain. But come to think of it, in the intermingling of soul-ish activities, I always experience ideas as trickling down into practice, and emotions welling up into my conscious thought.

What if my soul permeates the whole of my body?

This changes everything.

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