20 November 2013

Think with heart and feel with mind

The heart is associated with feelings and emotion and the mind with thought and reason.  How did that come about, though?  Did some people, appointed by a collective on account of proven intellect and mandated thereby to discuss such matters, come up with this conclusion, this separation of mind and heart with emotion pushed into one and thought into the other?

Come to think of it, did knowledge and fact or what is taken to be either result from similar processes?  Did it all evolve over time, with language and notions of propriety, based on some vague majoritarian acceptance, affirmation and then if necessary written into cultural texts and even the law?  

We don’t know how it all happened, but let’s not allow the ignorance to stop us from questioning norms or what is called ‘accepted thinking’.  ‘I follow my heart,’ some people say.  Others say ‘I defer to reason’.  It’s as though some people are made of heart and some of mind.  It’s as if those who are heart-made and mindless and those made of mind are heartless.  It’s probably safe to say that everyone has a heart and also a mind where specific actions follow input from both, some appearing to be clinically rational or inclined that way while others ‘coming straight from the heart’ and impulsive in appearance. 

It might be of academic interest to discover the true location of feelings and reason, but in the end that bit of ‘knowledge’ doesn’t help us come up with courses of action or words better suited for the matter at hand. 

In the past few days commuters have been a bit inconvenienced by special traffic arrangements in view of CHOGM 2013, but no one can say he or she was not forewarned.  By and large, people knew the times certain parts of certain roads would be closed and took alternative routes to chosen destinations. The inconvenience was worse the week before with road crews working day and night to get everything done before whatever deadline they had been given.  It was even worse on rainy days. 

On one such night, the traffic in Kotahena had slowed to a crawl.  It seemed that everyone had avoided the Baseline Road.  It was a matter of moving a few inches and waiting for anything between half a minute and five minutes to get moving again.  During one of the longer ‘stay-put’ occasions when one has to find ways to while away the time and to keep impatience in check, my eyes strayed to the other side of the road.  There was a man with a branch of a tree.  It was quick a big branch and looked pretty heavy too.  The man was struggling, but he managed to part life and part drag it to the road.  He planted it in a gaping hole that the heavy rains had carved out of the road.

It was raining heavily.  The man was drenched.  He was not wearing any uniform that could indicate that repairing roads or planting warning signs was part of his job.  He must have been an ordinary citizen who stepped in because he knew the consequences of an unwary motorist driving into the rut.  Indeed I would not have imagined there was need for a warning sign.  It was just too dark and it had rained too much. 

The point is, it was ‘none of his business’; and yet this nondescript stranger obviously was concerned about his fellow creatures.  He was walking; he was not driving or being driven. He was drenched, unlike those who passed him by and unlike anyone who might have got into a spot of bother had he not ‘installed’ the ‘warning’, he was on his feet.

Some might think him crazy.  ‘Is he out of his mind?’ is a question that might be asked.  ‘Crazy,’ because few if any would imagine himself or herself in that man’s shoes; sorry, ‘position’, for he wore neither shoes or slippers.  For the majority, what that man did was not logical.  It defied the notion of self-interest.  So where did it all come from?  That man’s mind or his heart?  If those who could not do something like that desist out of reason, then is his act heart-driven?  But then again isn’t ‘decision’ eminently thought-made? 

But had he continued on his journey, someone might have driven a vehicle into the hole and who knows what might have happened?  The man would not have known and would not have been in a position to laugh or lament.  The point is, he envisaged.  He empathized with the possible victim.  He thought with his heart.  He felt with his mind.   If we fiddle around the language, we can of course come up with a cogent refutation and conclude, ‘no, heart feels and mind thinks’.  

Does it matter?   

One thing is certain.  He did the ‘unthinkable’ or rather an unthinkable; something that the collective has not evolved to ‘do’ but which an individual who feels and thinks differently will not hesitate to do. 

It is good to flip things around now and then.  The world looks different then.  Someone does cost-benefit calculation, determines that cost outweighs benefit and does it nevertheless.  The world can do with a little bit more tenderness. 

He kept me company all the way thereafter, through each five minute stop and the one-inch-at-time drive.