In the big band that is the human body, the heart is obviously the drummer.
While the brain gets all the attention, broadcasting its manic thoughts from the front, the heart is content toiling away in the background – or closer to the center – building a steady groove with the lungs and other major organs, and keeping that most ancient and vital beat.
If you’re an engineer, you might label it nothing more than a simple pump. Four chambers and a few valves hooked up to an electrical current. Blood goes in and blood goes out. Easy.
But if you’re a philosopher, you’d probably argue there’s much more going on. The heart is actually the seat of the soul, the space where thoughts are transformed into emotion and a segment of the body that – depending on the context – is able to amplify our fear or excitement with its hammering rhythm.
Hearts come in all shapes and sizes. The blue whale has one as large as a car. A python’s only has three chambers. And nowadays, dodgy parts of our own can be bypassed, rebuilt, like the engine from an old Datsun, and even transplanted from one person to another without too much fanfare.
Historically, we used to eat a lot more heart than we do today. Being a super lean muscle, it’s a really healthy choice. Beef heart in smoked chilli and white wine vinegar is not an easy sell, but it’s starting to appear on a few Australian menus, mostly around the hipper suburbs in the big cities.
While other muscles have always got the glory – yes, we’re looking at you biceps – nothing exists without the hardest pumping muscle of all. Unlike other more attractive body parts, the human heart is the only one to have transcended and become the star of well-known sayings, the symbol of romantic affection, with a heap of commercial power, and a popular tattoo design.
Just a few reasons why we decided to give it some love this issue.
With organ donation still far too rare in this country, finding a heart that’s the perfect match for a transplant is the equivalent of striking gold. A real life story of how one family’s loss was another’s salvation.