In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros

Your Most Important Organ

It's time for a heart to heart talk — confrontational discourse that is both gracious and honest. The heart, after all, is cognate with the Latin cor and the Greek Kardia. Because of its position and importance in the body, it's the center or core of things and the heart of the matter. It's also what made us cordial, "warm and friendly" — providing us with the civility so sadly lacking in contemporary life, while also naming a hearty drink.

Having long been synonymous with courage, the heart doesn't shirk its duty, no matter how daunting. When asked to take heart, you are being encouraged to "cheer up" and face up to the challenge before you. When you finally take heart, you find the courage to act on the basis of principle rather than out of expediency — which brings us back to the heart of the matter.

It's not easy being courageous. Many find their heart in their mouth, that choky feeling that one gets from fear, conscious guilt, shyness, etc. Courage originally meant, "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." Over time, this definition has changed; today, courage is more synonymous with heroism. We seem to have lost touch with the idea that being courageous is speaking honestly and openly about who we are, what we're feeling, and our most strongly held beliefs.

The problem is how best to celebrate and use this remarkable organ; one that is easily lost amidst FTD bouquets, bitter sweet bon-bons, and frilly, insipid be-flowered cards featuring cellulite-assed cherubs aiming their mis-directed arrows. How can we rescue our heart and take courage back from the cloying sentimentality, excessive sentimentalism, mushiness, and maudlinism that surround it?

During the Middle Ages, the Order of the Bleeding Heart honored the Virgin Mary "whose heart was pierced by many sorrows." They failed to reach Westbrook Pegler, however. The noted conservative columnist of the 1930's and 40's derisively labeled those calling for governmental intervention in rectifying social ills, as "bleeding heart liberals."

Such bleeding hearts now appear stilled. Looking for new programs from Congress to feed the hungry? Eat your heart out. Housing for the homeless? How about a heart as big as all outdoors? That's where you'll find them. As standardized testing has become the guiding norm in education today, its heart has been torn. And admission offices have developed hearts of stone.

A heart-felt reminder: the heart was once not only seen as the controlling center of the emotions, but of intelligence and memory as well. Would you have your children learn by heart? Just try learning something when your heart isn't in it.

Who today can feel the heartbeat of the people? Who will find the courage to address their heartfelt needs? Who among us has the vision and the courage to deal in giant steps rather than cautious increments? Rather than look elsewhere, clearly it's time we looked into our own hearts.