There is such fertile ground for sensemaking in this space between biology and metaphor that we have always used our bodies as sensemaking instruments for the soul. No part of the body has taken on more metaphorical significance than the important organ depicted in centuries of literature and song as the seat of love.
“Love your heart. For this is the reward,” Toni Morrison composed in an elegant passage from Beloved as she thought about the body as an instrument of sanity, happiness, and self-esteem a century after William James asserted in his innovative deal with how our bodies affect our feelings that “a purely disembodied human emotion is a nonentity,” providing the fledgling reliability of a young science to Walt Whitmans poetic persistence that “the body consists of and is the meaning, the primary concern and includes and is the soul.”
When we speak of the heart breaking, we are speaking metaphorically, and yet anyone who has lived through heartbreak– that is, anyone who has lived at all– understands intimately the terrible way in which the mental condition of loss takes on the quality of physical pain. It is barely surprising, then, that the soul and the body heal in consanguinity– the heart-as-metaphor heals the exact same method the heart-as-organ does.
That is what English poet Christy Ducker checks out with unusual level of sensitivity and lyric splendor in “A Scientists Advice on Healing.” A great scholar and a great poet who made her Ph.D. while making up poems about the Victorian lighthouse keeper Grace Darling, Ducker embodies the animating spirit of The Universe in Verse and stands as a testament to Ursula K. Le Guins beautiful insistence that “science describes properly from outdoors, poetry describes accurately from inside, [and] both commemorate what they describe.” In this bewitching animated poem, Ducker joins visions with artist Kate Sweeney to deliver an emotional prescription partway between science and metaphor, in between organ and instrument, as palliating to the physiology of health problem as it is to the psychology of heartbreak:
A SCIENTISTS ADVICE ON HEALINGby Christy Ducker
Try to acceptthis fat red hurtis your beginning point, in the way a pen should be put to paper in one particular area,
beyondthe globby flapof blame and past the mono-sulk of discomfort.
Modification the subject, before its too late.Sketch outwhat healthyou do have, what signal-cascades, what flotilla of cellscircumnavigate you,
then draw yourself back together again, in a language of your own.
Your bodys talkis loose as lymph– itll have you open out as a tree, or slip up on discomfort as assassin, partner, or wolf.
Encourage thisfor recovery will not come at you straight.Embrace the lack of heroics– this isnt Hollywood, its you, in a plotthat mayor may not resolve.
The poem appears in Messenger (UK edition)– a slim collection of Duckers poems checking out “how we wound and how we recover,” making use of the science of immunology in a collaboration with Yorks Center for Chronic Disease, and including visual poetics by Sweeney, who also animated poet Linda Frances spectacular “Murmuration.”.
The Human Heart. One of French artist Paul Sougys mid-century scientific diagrams of life. When we speak of the heart breaking, we are speaking metaphorically, and yet anybody who has lived through heartbreak– that is, anybody who has lived at all– understands thoroughly the horrible method in which the mental condition of loss takes on the quality of physical pain. It is hardly unexpected, then, that the soul and the body recover in consanguinity– the heart-as-metaphor heals the very same method the heart-as-organ does.
Couple with “Antidotes to Fear of Death”– astronomer and poet Rebecca Elsons sensational cosmic salve for our creaturely tremblings of heart– then review Epictetuss 2,000-year-old Stoic method for surviving heartbreak.