Monday, 24 March 2014

A heart without meaning

Somewhere, deep in your heart, is the real you. That's where you really feel the truth of a situation. That's where your soul resides.
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart." Genesis 6:5-6
Or is the heart something else?

For centuries it was considered scientific fact that thoughts came from the literal heart, the organ in your chest. Stop a heart and you stop the person. We hear echoes of it when the Israelites are forbidden to eat blood (Deut 12:23).

In European history, sometime towards the end of the 15th century, science took over. People started discovering (through some awful experiments, by the way) that the brain was involved in motion and speech and other control aspects. Eventually we know what we know today. Our thoughts are generated in our brains, not our hearts.

But the heart lingers as a poetic device. We love from our hearts. In Moby Dick, Captain Ahab stabs from hell's heart. Even though the biblical authors believed the heart generated thoughts, today we read it instinctively that the heart is just a metaphor for our inner thought life, our motives, our intentions.

I can't help but wonder why we so easily accept this and learn to read through that lens, and yet we seem unable to do the same with ideas of heaven, or demonic possession, or a host of other things which we can now view differently. It would be a laughable argument to suggest that because of cardiology and neurology, all biblical references to the heart are devoid of truth or meaning. Is it not just as laughable to say the same about the relation between psychology and demon possession?

Our view of the world has changed because of science, but it doesn't mean that we need throw out the meaning of our sacred texts. We can still figuratively understand the bible, even when it literally opposes science, without taking away any value.
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