Valentine Bluff #2 Don’t listen to your heart

Often heard at times of tribulation romantic or otherwise, reality or drama series is the time-worn phrase “Listen to your heart”.

It was the title of the third single issued in the United States from Swedish pop duo Roxette‘s 1988 album Look Sharp! It was written by Per Gessle and Mats M.P. Persson. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on November 4, 1989, their second chart-topper of the year. It was also the title of a 2010 movie directed by Matt Thompson, written and starred in by Kent Moran. It was an Official Selection of the New York International Film Festival, the Rhode Island International Film Festival, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival and the winner of the Alan J. Bailey Excellence Award for Screenwriting.

But what I’m actually talking about sentiment behind the culturally popular phrase that helped it gain so much notoriety not only in music, film and television but within the scope of reality as well where real people actually use this phrase as advice to other people who have problems that pertain to romance, bravery, hope etc.

In fact this phrase is so prevalent and used that it used as an explanation in itself rather than have an explanation for itself. When someone says Listen to your heart it is the de facto end of the discussion on your problem. And this is not a blind hypothesis, it is a solid cultural observation. Nothing shuts up a problem-laden friend faster than this phrase. It is culturally embedded that listen to your heart is self-explanatory and should be accepted as a real solution (and in some cases the only solution) on face value. Everyone can theoretically ascribe listen to your heart as a solution to almost any problem but no one rightly explains how the one with the problem actually goes about doing it, by which I mean actually solving the problem.

When, for example, the question ‘how’ comes into the picture as in “How am I supposed to do that?” the wise sage of a friend who in his/her benign all encompassing wisdom (who presumably possesses such wisdom in order to have the gall to give the most simplistic advice such as listen to your heart) will be hard put to explain his/her point in any other words precisely for the reason that he/she has no idea what he/she is saying.

It is then in my opinion a destructive phrase wherein advice is said but no actual advice is given. It’s tantamount to giving someone a cake to help them pound a nail into a plank of wood. It’s almost as non-sensical as the ‘be yourself’ advice in some ways though not as blatantly unhelpful with a hint of mysticism thrown in for good measure. Listen to your heart is so devoid of any type of useful information that the phrase could have said listen to your galbladder and it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Whenever someone says heart I assume they’re talking about the beating thing in your chest. Since the middle ages the heart has been ascribed as the seat of emotion, following the biological observations of Aristotle.

For the heart is the first of all the parts to be formed; and no sooner is it formed than it contains blood. Moreover, the motions of pain and pleasure, and generally of all sensation, plainly have their source in the heart, and find in it their ultimate termination.

DE PARTIBUS ANIMALIUM Book 3, Chapter 4

Biologically, science has established that the human heart (or any other heart for that matter) is merely an organ that pumps blood, nothing more nothing less. It is not as Aristotle believed the center of the human body, nor its source of heat, nor the originator of blood. It cannot talk, it cannot make conscious decisions, it cannot inform you of the varying difficulties involved with your situation and all its proposed solutions, it cannot think. All of these are functions of your brain.

No matter what you end up doing, no matter who you end up listening to, the constant decision maker that allows you to choose whatever solution to whichever degree you want to take it has always been and will always be your brain. The brain has always been compared with intellect and even called the seat of intellect. However, even with this already grand and honorable sentiment it is still a simplification of the brains function. It is not only the seat of intellect, it is the very foundation of who you are. Your personality, preferences, dreams, and even involuntary biological functions are all directed and connected to your brain.

The association of love to the heart stems from the organs behavior to pump faster when confronted with romantic situations, thus giving it its supposed importance in the matter. However, we now know that this behavior only comes about because of the surge of adrenaline released by the pituitary gland in our brains acting on attraction or infatuation based on the level of hormones present.

Possible arguments for it might say that the listen to your heart (non)advice is most commonly given to people who are torn or stricken in choosing between loves or lovers. No actual solution is necessary, it only involves the act of performing a choice which then makes listen to your heart valid advice. Still wrong, arguments like these or arguments like this ignore the fundamental reality already demonstrated. The heart is in charge of nothing but the distribution of oxygen carrying hemoglobin to the various parts of the body.

No matter what the situation, in every case, in every scenario, in every judgement the last word is left up to your brain, in other words, you.

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