The Knowing Heart
Why is love so important? What is it about love that sets us apart and sets the angels apart?
BY: Ptolemy Tompkins
Part of the answer to that question is obvious. We are obsessed with love because we understand on an intuitive level what the Gospels tell us straight out: Love is all-important.
But there’s another reason why we humans are so love-obsessed, and it’s not so obvious. I have a suspicion we talk about love so much because we have forgotten an aspect of what it really is. It’s a way of thinking.
At first this might sound ridiculous. The last thing love would seem to have anything to do with is thinking. People who are in love do stupid, crazy things precisely because when you’re in love, you don’t think, right?
Yes—but that’s only one side of the story: the side in which love is seen as a kind of momentary madness that comes over us. But there’s another side of love: one that isn’t crazy and impetuous but profoundly sane and sober. Far from making us act irresponsibly, this variety of love brings out our deepest capacities for commitment and sacrifice. In short, this kind of love is thoughtful.
Try this experiment. Imagine that no one has ever told you anything about the way your insides work. You don’t know about your lungs or your kidneys, your stomach or your liver or any of the other internal organs that keep your body alive and functioning. For evidence of what’s going on inside you, you only have what you feel. Now, concentrate and see if you can tell where your thoughts are coming from.
If you’re like most people, it will be very hard, at least at first, to get away from the feeling that all your thoughts are coming from your head. We are so used to thinking of our brains as thought-making machines that we connect our thoughts to our brains without a moment’s hesitation.
But if you stay with this experiment a little longer, you might find that certain kinds of thoughts actually feel like they’re coming from parts of your body other than your brain. A mother worrying about her children might feel these heavy thoughts coming from her stomach. And when she stops worrying about those children and concentrates on her feelings of love for them, that same mother might experience those thoughts as coming from her heart.
The heart is the true human center, and in times past it was taken for granted that the deepest, most serious and most essential thoughts came from it.
Column: The Winged Life
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