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Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter
©Bettye Johnson

February is remembered for Valentine’s Day with the heart as its primary symbol. Most people have no idea what the heart really is of what it means. Yes, it is the pump where our life’s blood flows through and many think erroneously that it houses the soul. Actually it is only a pump and the soul resides next to it.

What does it mean when we say I feel it in my heart or from the depths of my heart? An online dictionary gives a number of definitions such as spirit, nerve, spunk, center, gist, affection, bosom, and pump. Along with the definitions are some of the phrases: He had a change of heart. Heart-to-heart. He had a change of heart. You haven’t got the heart to carry on or to do it. The heart and soul of… The child won everyone’s heart. Eat your heart out. She died of a broken heart. It is interesting to ponder the many uses of the word heart.

The first word I noticed on this online dictionary was the word spirit. Going back to the online dictionary I learned that spirit is interpreted as liveliness, life, a fundamental emotional and activating principle; determining one’s character, intent, disembodied spirit and last the vital principle or animating force within living things such as life principle and soul.

There are a number of clues in these interpretations of the words heart and soul and the usage however I am reminded of a story of sages who created man. This possibly originated from the creation of the humanoids by Ninhursag and Enki as given in the Sumerian tablets. The story goes that the sages were discussing among themselves where to hide God so that it would take man (humans) forever to discover God. The first one said, “Let’s hide God in the earth and the others disagreed saying, “No, man will go into the earth and in all likelihood discover God.” The second sage said, “Well, we can hide God in the oceans.” The others disagreed saying, “No, man will conquer the oceans so we can’t hide God there.” A third sage came up with the idea to hide God in the skies and again the sages said no because man would conquer the skies. They sat and pondered this when a fourth sage who had remained quiet during the conversation said, “Let’s hide God within man. Man will never think to look for God within.” The sages agreed and this is why God is within and usually undiscovered by the multitude of humans on this planet.

The golden thread coming from the definitions of heart and spirit is that the two words both mean God. God is everything and God is the vital principle, the life-giving force and the soul.
Therefore the word heart is another word for God.

Whenever I see a heart, I know it means God and that is why Valentine’s Day is so special. It truly is the one day of the year when love is promoted. Children exchange valentine cards at school and I did it when I was a child. Lovers and friends exchange cards and messages. Why is it we set aside one day of the year to promote love? Why can’t every day be a day of love? After all, God is love. Instead of prejudice and judgment, why not substitute a thought of love? Why not fall in love with yourself? It is something to think about.
P.S. The Origins of Valentine’s Day…

An ancient origin of the celebration of February 14 came from the Romans who honored the God Lupercus, the watcher over shepherds and their flocks. Every February the Romans celebrated a feast called Lupercalia and during Lupercalia honor was paid to the Goddess Juno Februata. During the celebration girls and boys were matched and would be considered partners for the year.

This celebration was changed by the advent of Christianity and the priests attempted to replace pagan practices, which they thought to be heathen. Instead of the Feast of Lupercalia the church changed it to St. Valentine’s Day. The matching of girls and boys was changed to drawing names and the boy or girl was to emulate a saint for the following year. This evolved over the years into valentines, as we know them today.

There were supposedly seven men named Valentine and honored on February 14. Pope Gelasius in 496 declared the day in honor of St. Valentine who became the patron saint of lovers. If one delves deep enough, February 14th was believed by Europeans to be the date the birds began to mate. Chaucer wrote in his “Parlement of Foules,” “For this was Seynt Valentine’s Day when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”