Brain Food #574

Remembering the heart as an ode to humanity

Thoughts of the day

I recently wrote about the enduring nature of the heart, easily overlooked in a time when the mind is perpetually in the spotlight, and extreme rationality is considered to be a superpower. Yet it is interesting, that for the brain to go, the heart has to go first. And in accounts of near-death experiences, many patients whose hearts had stopped recall having some form of awareness as their resuscitation was taking place.

For today, I would like to share with you an excerpt from an essay written by Brian Doyle, titled Joyas Voladoras. It is a piece about acknowledging the infinite potential and tragically finite limitations of the heart, from the tiny hearts of hummingbirds, to the giant hearts of whales.

Of hummingbirds, Doyle writes:

“Their hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature. It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You fry the machine. You melt the engine. Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.

I have not included the sublime closing paragraph because I do recommend reading the entire piece, which should take you less than five minutes.

As Blaise Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” And to this day, the heart remains our most human part, revealing to us what is concealed even from ourselves. Remembering the heart is to remember to be human.


The heart was a frequent motif in Keith Haring’s work. The below sketch, titled Dancing Man with Radiant Heart, is a simple ode to humanity.


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