All About Hearts

Well, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day, another Hallmark moment date for florists and candy makers to make some bucks. A moment for everyone to declare their love for one another and then forget about it for the rest of the year. I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day except for the chocolate. I don’t believe some commercial enterprise should tell people when to express their love. A healthy relationship should involve a few declarations or symbols throughout the year, from one person to the other and not rely on prodding from the world of merchandise.

But the heart shape seems to be quite old, and stylized, although it doesn’t much resemble the human heart. Still, way back when humans started using it to symbolize the heart and love. Some argue that the silphium seed pod, which is heart shaped, is where the design came from but the truth is lost in antiquity. What we do know is that the heart has figured big in spiritual and emotional matters since at least the times of the Egyptians.

The heart would be weighed against truth, and early theories involved the heart being the seat of reason, the soul or emotion. Even though today we know that thoughts and emotions are generated by the brain and can cause a physiological reaction in the body, still our language is peppered with allusions to the heart still being the seat of emotion.

You have to have heart, goes one song. It should come from the heart, means it should be done with feeling. People will touch the vicinity of their chest housing the heart (though usually higher that the heart’s true location) and say, It touched me, or I felt it here. You have a cold heart, is a common enough thing to say to someone who seems to lack feeling or compassion.

Some conjecture that the heart is the shape of a woman’s buttocks or that it is the vagina (or possibly the uterus). All of these are just guesses because we will never know who first made the shape so stylized. But the heart is a unique shape that we recognize the world over as much as the circle, square, star or diamond. It’s asymmetrical and different and it will forevermore be part of a symbol for emotion, love, the physical heart and Valentine’s Day. So whether I like it or not, chocolates are sure to be dispensed in heart shaped boxes for at least another 100 years or so.

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Filed under Culture, history, people

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