Today there was a very excellent split sermon to close the afternoon services for the Last Day of Unleavened Bread that dealt with the heart. Of particular interest was the examination of the electrical signal of the heart, and the way that brains tune in to the electrical field of the hearts of those around them. Since college I have known that I tend to have a more powerful electrical field than most people, with a corresponding lower electrical resistance, and I have always assumed that the brain was mainly responsible for this field, but it is possible that the heart and its sensitivity has a lot to do with it as well, which gives me much food for thought about the context of my life. This sensitivity may possibly relate to many other concerns as well, and that can help account for at least some of the immense complexity of my life.
For me, one of the most moving parts of the Harry Potter series of novels was near the end of the seventh novel, when Harry Potter bravely and doggedly marches towards what he thinks will be his death in order to break the power of the archenemy who has tormented him since he was a baby. Knowing that he must willingly let himself be attacked without defending himself in order to break his enemy’s power, he counts his heartbeats and reflects upon the bravery required to fulfill his purpose on earth. In counting his heartbeats, he wonders how many are left and how many have been wasted, and how often people take the number of their heartbeats for granted. In the end, of course, he does not die, but his gritty determination and bravery are nonetheless unusual, in that few people walk in such a way towards that which they believe may harm them greatly but that is ultimately the right thing to do for the sake of others and the world as a whole. It is easy to sacrifice others for utilitarian purposes, but a harder thing to sacrifice oneself.
The average number of heartbeats in the life of beings on this earth is about one billion heartbeats . The faster a heart beats, the shorter a life. The slower the beating of a heart, the longer that heart can beat. This is not necessarily a hard and fast rule, as human beings are a notable exception to this rule (the average human life among industrialized countries is about two billion heartbeats, but the life in the most savage and backwards conditions is still close to one billion heartbeats in places like Afghanistan or Lesotho). Being a person who is somewhat given to anxiety and occasional panic attacks, I wonder how many of the heartbeats of my allotted life have been wasted in the fears and anxieties that have come about because of what my heart has had to remember, and my automatic responses to what happens around me. Seeing as the heart has been key in the death of many of the most recent deaths among close relatives, I have had to think deeply about the problems that result from a difficult and stressful life for my rather unlucky (and sometimes unwise) heart.
Also of particular interest from the message, given my own life, is the way that the heart communicates with the body through electrical signals, managing blood pressure, hormones, as well as access to the nervous system. It is easy for these methods of communication to go dangerously wrong. We can feel so much pressure that our internal communications end up killing ourselves. The hormones we create because of stress can wreck havoc on our internal organs, on our peace of mind, and can convince us that our surroundings are far more hostile to us than they would be if we did not have such a terrible life experience to draw on. Rather than simply being a matter of sentimentality, the healing and mending of a heart can be a matter of life or death, which ought to make us more tender and sensitive to the hearts of others, and ourselves.