Follow thy heart

An old man was trudging towards the Himalayan heights when a rainstorm forced him to rest awhile. “How will you reach the peak with this weather?” asked a native. The old man replied cheerfully: “My heart got there first, so the rest of me will easily follow.”

The heart is a prominent symbol in Christianity. Catholics celebrate two “heart feasts” on June 6 and 7: sacred heart of Jesus and immaculate heart of Mary, his mother.
The Bible sees “heart” not only as the wellspring of emotions, but also as moulding our personalities and helping us to think, remember, discern and decide. But the most striking Biblical use of heart is in reference to God (Genesis 6:6; 8:21). This is where the hearts of Jesus and Mary symbolise divine and human love since we’re all created “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27).
Society places head over heart, intellect over emotion. Often we naively say, “Men normally follow the head; women, their hearts.” Consciously or unconsciously, assertions like these reinforce patriarchic stereotypes that while men are intelligent and logical, women are emotional, flippant and illogical. Such dichotomous thinking must be critiqued and challenged.
Religions tend to see reality in polarities: light and darkness, good and evil, punya and paap, with the first term indicating dharma, the latter, adharma. Psychologists like Carl Jung speak of the female and male components — the anima and the animus, respectively — in our psychological setup. Males also possess the anima in varying degrees while females, the animus.
Being influenced by Greek philosophy, which held the Divine Being as unaffected by emotions, early Christian thinkers tended to describe Jesus as someone devoid of emotions.
This is untrue since the gospels show Jesus expressing the whole spectrum of human emotions with unembarrassed freedom.
Jesus wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35); burnt with anger at religion’s rigid ritualism and loveless legalism (John 2:17); was moved with compassion (Mk 1:41); was overjoyed (Lk 10:21) and so on.
The gospels portray Mary, too, as rejoicing (Luke 1:47), as sensitive to those in need (John 2:3), as seeking God’s will “in her heart” (Luke 2:19,51), and as grieving at her son, Jesus’ death.
Our minds might differ widely due to social, religious, cultural and educational diversities. However, at the “heart level” — except for a few who are deeply scarred psychologically — we are all capable of expressing a whole gamut of feelings: love, sensitivity, compassion, fear, anger, sadness, attraction, surprise, etc. Let us then follow our heart like that lionhearted mountaineer.
Most religions stress the centrality of the heart. If we love, discuss, accept, understand, welcome all other(s) heart-to-heart, we’ll soon realise that living together is a heart-warming experience.

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