When I look in a mirror I see a white haired man with a somewhat time-worn face. But I am not old, at least I do not feel old. I know – rather, let me say, I have knowledge of the fact that, on my Life’s journey I am nearer the end than the beginning. Sometimes I almost feel as if I am taking a pleasant gentle stroll towards a still to be determined sunset.
Even though my muscles may not have the strength they once had, my step is still firm; my eyesight is ok but needs some optical assistance; my hearing is somewhat impaired (a bad right ear as a result of military gunfire – a .303 Lee-Enfield makes one helluva noise); my heart, lungs and other internal organs are sound (I take no prescription medications); I am just within my correct Body Mass Index (BMI) at 24.5 (even if this is at the upper end of normal); I don’t smoke (never have); I don’t drink alcohol; so, generally, I think I am good for a few more years yet.
This got me reflecting on my heart and hearts in general. What incredible organs they are. Mine has been pumping blood tirelessly for over 70 years – I have a slow pulse rate, at about 60 per minute:-
Now at 60 beats per minute this
= 3 600 beats per hour
= 86 400 beats per day
= 604 800 beats per week
= 31 449 600 beats per year
And in my case, so far in my life = 2 201 472 000 beats - over 2 thousand million times without faltering or complaining!! What makes this figure even more astonishing is that, so I understand, while every other cell in our bodies is replaced many times over, the cells comprising the “pumping muscles” of the heart are never replaced (or replaced very slowly - according to new research). They actually start beating 3 weeks after conception and just keep on going. They can never rest. So these same cells in the same muscles in my heart have been expanding and contracting in a seemingly tireless rhythm – squeeze-release, squeeze-release - since before I was born!! This is a prodigious feat worthy of some high order of wonder.
Just think about it – my “heart” started beating before my brain was formed – as did yours! This means – which is quite true – that heart muscles have been found to be independent from the brain and, in some manner, seem to communicate between themselves to synchronise their movements. This is an astonishing finding which, I might add, applies to anything – reptile, fish, animal, human or whatever, that has a heart. If these cells communicate between themselves (however “communication” is determined) this would indicate that they have some degree of intelligence. Without a measure of intelligence how can anything “communicate” and understand what is being communicated? This must be why the heart has always been considered the central organ and the centre of the emotions – “she has a heart of gold”; “he is a big hearted man” and so on.
If cells are intelligent where or how does this intelligence arise? Something cannot come from nothing. To me this reinforces my belief that that there is a “collective unconscious” (as proposed by C.G. Jung) which I equate with the essence of “Life” that animates all cellular life. Something “out there” that is greater than any of us; something that is the reason why we are born at all; something that, we may assume, had a plan which may be a work in progress that commenced with the “Big Bang”, some billions of years ago. All life forms are not just an agglomeration of matter; there is something above and beyond the observable Universe which affects all sentient beings in different ways according to their kind. I cannot prove this of course – but then no one can disprove it either!
Regardless of one’s viewpoint on this matter – a heart is still a wondrous organ and worthy of a great deal more care and attention than we normally give it.