Believing lately about what it means to have the best heart, which intimates the concern of what it suggests to tend to ones own heart rightly, I was advised of a passage from what might be the loveliest, truest, most quietly transcendent thing ever composed about the art of getting older: “The main point is this,” Grace Paley wrote in 1989, “when you get up in the early morning you need to take your heart in your 2 hands. You must do this every morning.”
I was reminded, too, of a kindred passage penned two years earlier by another titan of thought and sensation in language: Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931– August 5, 2019), composing in her 1987 work of art Beloved (public library)– the book that quickly made her the very first black lady to receive the Nobel Prize, which she got with a speech of staggering insight into the human heart.
Toni Morrison. Coat picture for her debut book, 1970.
From within the storys more comprehensive meditation on the inmost significance of liberty and the body as the locus of liberation, Morrison unspools this superb belief from the lips of her protagonist:
In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in lawn. Love it. Love it hard.
A century after Walt Whitman declaimed in Leaves of Grass that “the body is the significance and consists of, the primary issue and includes and is the soul,” composing his reverent brochure of body-parts– “head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears … mouth, tongue, lips, teeth … strong shoulders … bowels sweet and clean … brain in its folds inside the skull-frame … heart-valves …”– Morrison writes:
Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face … Love your mouth … This is flesh … Flesh that needs to be enjoyed. Feet that require to rest and to dance; backs that require support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms … Love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they d simply as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver– like it, like it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw totally free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving personal parts … enjoy your heart. For this is the prize.
The Human Heart. One of French artist Paul Sougys mid-century scientific diagrams of life. Available as a print.
Cherished remains the uncommon sort of masterpiece that offers the English language back to itself and your conscience back to itself. Complement this particular piece with, then review Morrison on literature as disobedience and redemption, knowledge in the age of information, the artists task in attempting times, and the obscure, charming kidss book about generosity she composed with her son.
Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face … Love your mouth … This is flesh … Flesh that needs to be enjoyed. The dark, dark liver– like it, like it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving personal parts … like your heart. The Human Heart.