We have one physical heart, beating in our chests to our own funky little beat that lets us know we are physically alive and present in the universe. But, somewhere deep in our soul, in that dusty cupboard that contains all that is the ethereal “Us”, is the collection of our other “hearts”, the metaphoric ones that connect us emotionally to the rest of the universe. Yes, I said hearts, plural. I am a firm believer that most human beings are so emotionally complicated that we possess many hearts that serve many purposes.
We are born with this cosmic jar of hearts within us, this capacity for potentially limitless love. None of these hearts are labeled to begin with, but, over time, they are labeled and given away. The very first heart we label, even as babies, is the heart we label for our mothers. There are those who believe that this is something that perhaps takes place even before we are born, as we reside comfortably inside of her, listening to her heart beat, feeling her emotions as our emotions, hearing her voice, and maybe even some of her thoughts. She lays claim to that very first heart. And then our father claims the next one, as he holds us close and we hear his voice, that familiar voice that we may remember hearing before we were born. We somehow recognize that he is part of what created us, and give him a heart of his very own.
If we have siblings, and we are close to them, we give them their own hearts as well. If we have a close relationship with our grandparents, as I did with my Grandmother, they are given their own heart, nurtured by stories and warm hugs. If we are not, then they all become part of the “family” heart, the heart that reminds us that we are connected to these people. This is where we come from, where we share some commonality, being blood or otherwise.
There are times when it feels like we are not connected to these people, that they have not earned the right to a heart. We pull away. We disconnect. This is not because there is no love, or that we have taken back the heart we have gave them. It is just far too painful to that heart to be in close emotional proximity to that person. It is sad when I hear that someone hates a member of their family, when really, it is the pain they bring, not the person themselves. We shove them into a tiny corner of the family heart because it easier to just leave them there and ignore them rather than try and sort out the pain.
Somewhere in the happiness and sadness of growing up, we finally allow ourselves to pick a heart of our very own, the heart of self-love. We quietly put our names on it in pencil, erase it a million times as we go through phases of self-loathing over the years. It can become dusty and a bit cracked from the harsh internal dialogue we inflict upon ourselves from time to time. But then we have one of those day or weeks that make us feel good to be us, and we dust that heart off, patch it up and polish it until it shines. This is why those with a healthy (not narcissistic) sense of self-love seem to shine from within. They maintain and care for their hearts.
Somewhere in here, we also create our “spiritual heart”, the heart that we give to the Divine in our lives. We may label it “God” or “Goddess”, or the names of hundreds of Gods and Goddesses. We may label it simply as “that thing that is greater than I am.” This is the heart, the love we send to that Divine spirit that we feel present in the universe, that we feel connected to. This heart is our connection, our hotline to Spirit when we ask for guidance and receive that Divine love back in return. Some find this heart early in life. Others develop it much later. I feel like it exists in some form in all of us, as we all contain that Divine spark of life.
We also (hopefully) at some point in growing up, develop what I can the “humanity heart”, the heart that sees and understands that we are all one community on this planet. This is the heart that aches when we see suffering in the world, and becomes outraged at war and the mistreatment of others. This heart moves us to help out a stranger. The humanity heart aches when it sees those commercials with puppies and kittens in cages. This is the heart that says, “I do not know you, but you are a part of me.”
Those we care about, that we make an actual part of our lives, earn hearts of their own as well. We have a general heart labelled “friends” for those who we interact with and have come to care about. There are friends who become so close that we add them to the heart that I like to call “the chosen family heart”, those individuals that we develop a deep, lasting connection with. If we are very fortunate, we have a handful of people connected to this heart, an emotional support system so strong that it carries us through the dark periods of our lives.
The strongest heart we give away and carry within us is the heart we give to our child (or fur baby, as I love my animals as if they were my own children). The “parental” heart is made of molten iron, encased in some strange rubber material. It is capable of enormous amount of love yet able to withstand enormous amounts of abuse. Anyone who has every raised a toddler or a teenager can attest to this. They do things, say things that would break an ordinary heart. This heart looks beyond all of this and still is able to love this being completely, even if they do not like the things that they do or say. This heart still hold firm to that connection, even when the child is pushing away with all their might. This heart can look past atrocities that some children grow to become, and yet still say, “this person is still my child, and I still love them.” This is a heart that is given and can never be destroyed, not through death or the end of the universe. Nothing can destroy the parental heart. The parental heart is the strongest heart because it truly has to be.
The most fragile heart we give to others is the one labelled “the intimate heart”. For some, it is crafted of finely spun glass. We hand it to the person who we choose to love on a most personal, intimate level. We label this person as our soul mate, our significant other. These are not rendezvous or simple affairs, or superficial sexual relationships we tell ourselves are really, but really only serve some random purpose. These are the people we connect to on the deepest, most intimate level, well beyond sex and into the realm of the spiritual. We see them as the other half of ourselves, and share our lives with them on a profoundly personal level. The hearts we hand them are etched with their names, and is theirs to keep forever, even when the relationship ends. This is why these people seem to leave an imprint on us years after they are no longer a part of our lives, because they still carry with them a part of us with their name on it. They still have possession of one of our hearts. Even if they shatter it with a hammer in a million pieces, those million fragments still exist. We think of them from time to time when something catches our attention, a song, a scent or something that reminds us of them, reminders that there is someone out there carrying one of our hearts in their heart.
There is a poem by e.e. cummings that goes:
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”
I think that is what that poem means, that we give away all these hearts, sometimes with reason and sometimes foolishly. And that these individuals carry these hearts in their own hearts, much the same as the ones we are given we carry in our own. It connects us to them no matter where we go or what we do in life. We all walk around with this heart that is actually a container for multitude of hearts we carry within us, some we created ourselves, and some that were gifted to us by others.
If we stop looking at our heart as a singularity, and start seeing it rather as a container for an infinite number of hearts, life would change. We would suddenly realize the tremendous capacity we have for love. We would come to the understanding that we do not have to love one over or instead of another. We could stop agonizing over the damage that one heart has sustained through someone’s carelessness, and saying we will never love again because we would realize that we have other hearts to share. Having a broken heart would no longer stop the world from turning because we would know that, though that one is damaged, we have a shiny new one ready to share with someone more worthy, someone who will hopefully tend to it with more care. I give you my heart, and if you do not handle it with care, if you break it, you do not get another one, and my life moves on because…
I carry far more than your heart with me. I carry an infinite number of hearts in my heart….