Heart Burned

Ooh, barracuda!Prompted by a recent post at Pharyngula, I got to thinking again about one of my more recent (and growing) pet peeves: “the heart.” Now, I’m as poetic as the next guy; I don’t have much problem with throwing around “the heart” as the figurative and symbolic center of emotion and passion (though I’m starting to). But I have a big problem with people who don’t understand the “figurative” aspect of that. I’m tired of being told to “think with my heart,” or that some quality “resides in the heart,” or that the heart has special powers of perception or thought or consideration separate from the brain. I’m tired of hearing that the heart is some magical receptacle of emotion-based ancient wisdom, which the brain is incapable of understanding.

The heart is an organ, like any other, with a set of functions, like any other. It’s a bundle of muscle and valves and other assorted tissues that pumps blood through your body. That’s it. All your feelings, thoughts, emotions, wisdom, and knowledge resides solely and completely in the wrinkly organ in your noggin. There’s nothing the heart does which cannot be understood by the brain. The heart does not think, does not experience or produce emotion, does not see or perceive, does not love, does not have tattoos on it, does not experience partial or total eclipses, is not like a wheel, and most certainly will not allow you to talk to animals or summon Captain Planet.

The heart is an amazing organ and a kickass band, but it’s not the magic four-chambered room where your wise and emotional soul lives. Any suggestions to the contrary are either metaphorical or misguided, and it would be wise not to mix the two.

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