What Is A Heart? What Is A Cat?

Thank you, Benjamin, for inviting me to write on your blog. I hope that you do not live to regret it! That said, on with my first post:

Hi folks,

I must admit that I love words. I was running in the rain the other day, thinking about nothing in particular, when one of my favorite words came to me out of the blue. This word was 'apprivoisé,' which I came across many years ago whilst reading that delightful little book 'The Little Prince," by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Then I started to wonder what the English translation for this beautiful French word might be. When I looked it up I was somewhat horrified to read the following translations: to domesticate, to tame, to bring under control. I thought about the conversation between the fox and The Little Prince and I was sure that this was not what the fox meant at all! To me apprivoisé refers a state of mutual trust, built slowly over time. Not a state of control, but a state of 'love.'

Then my mind moved on to thoughts of my cat, Alobar (named from Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins!). Is Alobar tamed or brought under control? No way! In fact, Alobar's behavior reminds me of two valuable lessons that are presented in another book, 'All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat,' by Suzy Becker: Lesson One - It is OK to wear the same clothes every day, and Lesson Two - Always remember to bite the hand that feeds you! Alobar does both of those, and I do my best, but we certainly live in a state of trust and love, cat or no cat. Which caused my mind to ramble onto thoughts of 'What is a Cat?'

What is a Cat? Now! This is not an easy question to answer, and the answer(s) you give will betray how deeply you think and emote about The World. For the general case the word cat represents our need to simplify and classify objects in order to make sense of the Universe and to communicate with each other. Words are a bit like blood, in the sense described by d'Anconia in his excellent diatribe on the nature of money in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, but I hasten to add that I am no 'Objectivist,' as this philosophy is too black and white for me to accept. It is true that Alobar is a hairy feline, but he is much, much more than that. He is a friend! He has moods! He has likes and dislikes! He has dynamics! He has a way of being! He is, in fact, more than I can hope to put into words, and he is very, very important to me after 18 years of living together.

But then, my mind wandered on to this blog by Benjamin Carey, and his book, and the aneurysm community that I have recently joined. Initially I entered this community in a state of fear and dismay. Now, oddly enough, I find that my aneurysm is enriching my life as I encounter inspiring people and their stories. This flow of thought finally carried my mind to an interesting issue, how people think about their heart!

What is a Heart? This is not an easy question to answer, but I have definite opinions about what it is not. The heart is not an isolated pump. The physical heart, as opposed to the romantised heart, is a specialized part, in fact two specialized parts or segments, of a closed circular tube that exhibits regions of variable porosity and that behaves as an integrated system. Try to think of the heart not so much as a lump of muscle in your chest as two interesting pieces of a closed tube that have just happened to come together in your chest to form your heart. The circular tube contains blood which is propelled along a constant loop, at the rate of about one cycle per minute, by many forces including the pumping action of the left and right heart muscle, and every segment of this tube is talking to every other segment via pressure waves, neural and chemical connections, and a panoply of nutritional, waste disposal and oxygenation demands. Start to build a picture of this tube, with what we call the heart as just one (or should I say two) specialized pieces that drive the blood a little more than other pieces, but the pumping goes on all around the tube, which of course is your cardiovascular system. In fact, think of the system first and then the pieces, but not in isolation. This approach to the body is the heart (excuse the pun) of the Feldenkrais system, which is all about body awareness and contributes positively to my life and training almost as much as does my cat. Your way of envisioning and understanding your heart (or wherever your aneurysm happens to be) will improve your understanding of your health challenges dramatically, and it might just help you deal with your health providers in a more effective way. Or with your cat, for that matter!

Inappropriate thinking led my cardiologists to deny the obvious link between my stent and the subsequent hypertension that it clearly induced (story on my blog under the category hypertension), but I love my stent (Rupert) as much as I love my cat. No stent, no Kevin, no relationship with Alobar, or my family and friends, or sport, or anything, for that matter.

How we think and emote determines how we relate to and understand The World. You have the choice to think superficially with easy answers to everything, or to think deeply and enrich your life, with more mental and emotional work but much, much more joy in living. Nothing like an aneurysm to bring that message home to roost.

So! Love your aneurysm, if you can. It is the best way to live.

Happy Thursday,

Kevin (Old Dog).


Benjamin J. Carey said...

Kevin, it's an honor to have you as a contributor on Heartosaurus.

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