In preparation for this month’s post, I’ve been reading up on the heart. The post was inspired by my friend, Francesca Forrest’s, recommendation that I read The Sublime Engine: A Biography of the HUMAN HEART by Stephen Amidon and Thomas Amidon, MD. NPR had done a piece on the book discussing the man that toured Europe with a hole in his chest that allowed folks to see his heart hard at work deep within his chest. I was intrigued.
The book relates the history of our understanding of the heart with stories as well as facts. You can get a pretty good refresher course over at Wikipedia. As I read through, I was reminded of my own considerations as a child. Maybe we all have these inward thoughts as children.
Now, I am aware there are terms for all of this. I am now anyway. When I was a kid, I wondered what made me, me. Where was the soul situated? Was it in my heart? Was it in my mind? Was it all of me? The parts that sensed things were my whole. Yet, my thoughts did not seem to originate from my finger tips. Did my mind generate the fear and the love? Where did my emotions live? Where was my identity seated? How did these things all work together? Oh and a scary one, when I shed skin or hair or teeth, was I losing a part of me?
In school, much of the biological/anatomical questions were answered. I never wanted to be a doctor. I was more than satisfied with those answers and did not desire graphic details. For all my love of the vampire concept, I am not a huge fan of blood. That thought right there gave me more consideration last night regarding the essence of life in our bodies. Again, it mirrored other historic considerations and I smiled.
My son is currently studying Freud and Einstein thanks to The Invisible Century. Again, I see old questions of mine asked by others. I see him making his way through them as they did. In particular there is the question of the mind vs. the brain. It isn’t that far from the question of the heart vs. the brain.
As I continued to read both the book and various sites along my research trail, I started looking with my writer eyes. How can the science of hearts fit into stories? The Tin Woodsman from Oz jumped out at me. The poor guy needed a heart to be whole. I considered how he found himself without one in the first place and what it would mean to him to obtain one. I thought about steampunk and clockwork subgenres and the room to maneuver where anatomy is concerned.
I went back to that amazing electric current that runs through us. Is that the spark of life? Could that spark mean sentience on any level? What could a heart know? Mine might like to have a discussion with me about pizza. I know that for certain. Is there room in a fantastical story for a heart that advises with pulses? When we control the beats or regulate this power, what does it do to the heart? Does the heart store memory in the flesh? Teach a heart Morse Code and the punch line to a joke in its standup routine might really be a killer.
I wanted to learn a little more about the electric conduction system of the heart and understand how different heart tissue is from other tissues. Do you know the why? Why is it different? Is there a story there that starts with conception?
What about heart transplants? I know of a few stories that involve transplant patients where the organ donor’s essence, past, ect. are conveyed to the recipient. What about stories where the medical professionals involved in the operation or the healing afterwards are able to manipulate the organ in some way and the patient as well?
I’ve asked all of these questions of myself. I am asking you as well. I am not looking as much for your answers, but hoping that perhaps in the asking I trigger ideas that feed your own writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, I only mentioned the tin man. Share your reading recommendations that involve the heart in both short and long form. I am certainly interested.