It just never ends. Our hearts continue to get all the credit, at the expense of our brains.
Seriously, you can’t escape it. Or, maybe this isn’t about you at all, and it’s only me who continues to be distracted by the fact that our brains get shortchanged constantly by society’s insistence that our hearts make us who we are, and dictate what we do.
Several days ago, I settled on the topic for this column. As I typically do when I arrive at a column topic, I started taking mental notes in my head and catalogued in my mind little anecdotes that might make their way into the final draft you’re reading now.
But, as someone who’s heavy into music, films and pop culture, soon my brain was overwhelmed. By the time I started typing this column a few minutes ago, I was on full heart/brain column topic fodder overload.
To wit: Moments ago, our youngest son went out to play with a friend, so I grabbed the remote control from him – he was watching “Cars 2” – to see if anything good was on. Seconds later I stumbled across the William Hurt film “The Doctor,” one of my favorites. In the scene that commenced soon after I settled on the channel, Hurt’s character, a heart surgeon, is talking to a Mexican heart transplant patient and his family about the pending transplant surgery. The patient’s wife expresses her concern about the donor, wondering if he’s “good hearted” because “good things come from the heart.”
I shut off the TV and grabbed my laptop computer to get started on the column, but then figured I’d surf the web a little bit first. There, on Facebook, some sad person posted one of those images containing a philosophical saying, something about when a woman sheds a tear it doesn’t mean she’s weak, it “means she has a heart.” Sorry, but the fact she’s crying has nothing to do with the knot of muscle in her chest. She might indeed be morose enough to cry, but she also might be dicing up a strong onion. Or maybe an eyelash has gotten stuck in her eye and is giving her fits. Her heart, meanwhile? It’s just beating.
Suddenly realizing my column was practically writing itself, I put the laptop down, grabbed the keys to the truck and headed for the driveway. I got in, turned up the satellite radio, and started tapping the “seek” button. The second station I found was playing the song “Hole Hearted” by the 1980s rock band Extreme. In the chorus, they sing, “There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you.” I hit “seek” a couple more times, and on another station, “Broken Hearted Savior” by the band Big Head Todd and the Monsters was playing. A couple more presses of the “seek” button, and it was “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. A few stations further up the dial, it was “Stop Dragging my Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.
Indeed, the heart has won the pop culture battle over the brain, which is the true source of what makes us happy or sad, or feel love or hate, or courage or fear. But would you like a song in which the band sings, “There’s a hole in my brain that can only be filled by you”? Would you like songs titled “Broken Brained Savior”, “Brain of Glass” or “Stop Dragging my Brain Around”? (Memo to self: Contact Weird Al Yankovic, because I think I’m onto something here. He’s still alive, right?)
When we watch a sad film and tears stream down our cheeks, our heart, admittedly a miracle muscle if there ever was one, continues to beat, beat, beat away, oblivious to the fact that our eyes are even open. But what our eyes are taking in, our brains are instantaneously aware, and the tears come if our brains see fit.
The same goes for the day you crawled out of bed as a kid, only a day or so after thinking girls were gross, suddenly thinking girls are in actuality beautiful creatures. You know, that day when you walked down the hall and saw one, two or maybe 10 different girls of your dreams, because your brain, suddenly overflowing with manly hormones and other chemicals, processed the images taken in by your eyes differently than the day before.
Sure, when these things happen, our hearts go pitter-pat, pitter-pat faster than usual. And, yes, that pitter-pat, depending on the individual situation, often is transformed into a thundering THUMP-THUMP that has us wondering if our rib cage is strong enough to contain the pulsating muscle mass in our chest.
But what’s telling our heart to behave in such a fashion? It’s our brain, our wonderful, mysterious brain – a creased, oddly shaped, gray mass that, admittedly, wouldn’t sell many Valentine’s Day cards – that is responsible for every single thing that we feel and do from the day we’re born until the moment we take our last breath. When our heart beats its last beat, it’s just a muscle that’s stopped contracting.
So, here’s to our brains, good to the last spark.