Be Brave Timid Explorer
Space may seem like the final frontier but the truth is that this distinction lies a bit closer to home than we may want to admit. However you choose to define frontier, I believe the word aptly characterizes the heart.
Frontier can be defined as:
1. the far-flung limits of knowledge
2. a region of sparse habitation, or
3. a border between countries
I assert, dear reader, that the heart is more mysterious to an individual than any number of complex mathematical equations and questions of science. A person with a PhD in theoretical Physics will understand things that even the mention of would make my poor brain ache. And yet, even such a lofty scientific mind could still be utterly baffled by the heart. Their own heart could betray their rational mind and seem as foreign and bewilderingly complex as any intellectual discipline ever could. I suggest to you, dear reader, that the heart is the final frontier.
1. the far-flung limits of knowledge
The heart is at the far-flung reaches of our understanding. No matter how knowledgeable you or I happen to be in a particular field of study, we can still be caught unawares by our hearts. I don't know about you, but I have often been confused and frustrated by my heart. There have even been a rare few moments in my life where the realisation of what my heart wants has made my breath catch in my throat. But the worst of all, are those days I feel lost and restless because I cannot even tell what it is my heart wants; knowing only that it desperately seeks something. Something I can't quite grasp.
2. a region of sparse habitation
And it's not like there are any road maps in there because the second definition is also true. The heart is sparsely populated. It's just you and that crazy desire for whatever it is your heart has decided you need. There are no friendly locals to point you in the right direction. You and your heart just have to wander around in your solitary desert til you figure it out on your own. And trust me, the longer you are lost, the more your heart thinks it's dying. It certainly feels like an inhospitable desert place in a broken or lost heart.
3. a border between countries
Let's face it, the heart is the border between two completely separate countries. It is the border between rational and irrational thought. It is an individual's private frontier. The battle between head and heart is not new to many people, and yet, it is still as violent and hotly contested as it ever was. Perhaps the real struggle of adulthood is deciding which battles to fight. It is a lucky individual indeed that has a very quiet border at the edges of the heart's kingdom and the crossroads of reason. Maybe it is only my experience in life, but it is very rarely that my heart desires things that my rational side can agree with. More unfortunately, my heart very often wants what it absolutely cannot have.
And why is that?
Why does my heart seem to only want those things it cannot have? No, want is the wrong word. It is too tepid. Yearn is more like it. Why do I desperately yearn for opportunities and realities that cannot and never will be mine? Why can the heart not accept it's own fate and calm down for just a few minutes in it's restless beating and longing for the things that cannot be? My heart and head are almost always at war with each other. Perhaps it is true of all of us.
Courage of the Heart?
In the end, you almost have to admire the heart. I mean, it has a single mindedness to it's longing that is almost courageous. Well, it could be called courageous in other people at least. Maybe you could call it courageous in yourself if it wasn't making you so miserable. A body could almost learn to resent their heart some days, what with all the sleepless nights spent tossing and turning, pondering the things that might have been, or could still be; the way that miracles could still bring about that one thing you long for so desperately.
Bleary-eyed, coffee-filled doses of morning reality could understandably reduce even the most rational person to hateful thoughts toward their softer side. If only they were colder hearted, less of a dreamer, more rational, they silently chastise themselves over sips of piping wakefulness... If only they were these things, they sigh with resignation, they might sleep better, feel less weary and less plagued by life. If they weren't so irrational they might feel less at war with themselves on the border between desire and reality; less lost in the wilderness of emotional turmoil. If only they could turn the heart off or around and care about something practical and achievable.
The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants
The heart wants what the heart wants. Everyone will tell you this. They quote Emily Dickinson as if it explains everything away. But they forget the rest of the line. "The heart wants what the heart wants, or else it does not care." The hearts wants, or else... If the heart doesn't get what it wants it throws a perpetual tantrum to make you miserable because no matter how you wish it otherwise, you just can't care about things your heart doesn't want. And, if you remember, the heart is at the far-flung limits of our knowledge and it's sparsely populated. So, you're alone in there with your heart throwing a tantrum that you have absolutely no idea how to stop. You just get to sit in your barren desert of a heart, all alone, until it finally loses the energy to throw such a monumental tantrum. This, depending on the tragedy or misfortune, could take days, or even years. Years of feeling more alone and isolated and desolate than you can even imagine. (That is, more desolate than your rational side would think possible, when it finally has control.)
Follow Your Heart?
People will quote this line to you; "The heart wants what the heart wants" they say. They will do so in a flippant matter like this single quote explains everything. Well, of course you're miserable the heart wants what it wants. It will pass. Or they sometimes manage to imply that you should follow your heart. But neither of these sentiments are of comfort. Why does the heart want what it wants? Why can't it want something that it already has, or something that it could have? Why must it long for those things it cannot have? You cannot simply follow your heart when the object of your heart's desire is, in actual fact, impossible. You may want to sit on the edge of the moon and breathe freely, but it doesn't mean you can. You may wish for one more hour with a loved one, but no one can turn back time. You may wish for eight arms, or a new personality, but you cannot snap your fingers and be a different person. And, no, your misery does not get better by simply acknowledging that the heart wants what it wants, or that it cannot have it. You already know these things. Misery doesn't come from your lack of knowledge. Misery comes because your heart is simply incapable of caring about daily life or anything beyond the one impossible desire it is yearns for. So, you sit and wallow in your state of uncaring for anything else, because the heart doesn't compromise. It wants what it wants OR ELSE.
Emily Dickinson knew this. But those people who quote the first part of her line nearly always forget the second and darker truth. Emily, they frequently forget, was a woman much beset by grief. She knew intimately the depths of a heart's pain. She watched many loved ones and friends die in her lifetime and she struggled with deep depression. Her line is not a flippant statement that sometimes your heart is unhappy but you'll get over it soon it enough. There is no "soon enough" for some pain.
Your heart does not simply let the head win or stop wanting impossible thing in exactly two weeks time. You cannot sit your heart down and lecture it saying "Enough is enough", or "Come, now let's be rational. Things aren't going to change. Let's make the best it". No. Your heart won't listen. It doesn't care. No amount of reasoning with yourself and your heart makes the pain go away. No amount of reasoning helps your heart to care about anything else when it sees no hope and no future of happiness. The heart cannot be appeased by mundane trivialities. The pain settles in for a long and merciless winter hibernation; the sort of winter that perhaps there is no waking up from.
Heartbreak, heartsick, heavy heart, heartache. Why do you think there are so many words that have to do with temper tantrums of the heart? And this doesn't even include the wealth of words to describe the emotions including anguish, sorrow, and misery. Everyone deals with grief and heartbreak at some point in their lives. Sadly, as the heart is at the limits of our understanding, nobody has figured out a way of making these times any easier. The heart has a great capacity for joy and love and caring, but if it doesn't get it's way you may have a long road of apathy and anguish ahead of you.
Don't Follow Your Heart
A lot of soul searching, or heart searching if you will, has led me to the conclusion that I do not even know my own heart. It has layers of wishes and desires, some of them obvious and others latent, hidden even from my own awareness. I think that the best way to be at peace in life is to somehow reach a balance whereby your heart concedes that current circumstances are not permanent and that hope for future happiness is always a possibility no matter how bleak the day may be. Letting the heart live in the moment and focus only on despair is too dangerous. Hope can be a tricky ally, but it is far better than the heartache of despair. I am not an expert on these things and I still get caught unaware by the sudden tantrums of my heart's desires and apathy... but I am trying. Trying to understand. Trying to work towards hope. Trying to lead my heart out of darkness, but never follow it there.
My advice? Don't follow your heart. It doesn't know what it's doing. Prepare yourself for battle on the frontier between your heart and your head and remember that you will be going in alone, dropped behind enemy lines with no intelligence or maps. All you will have is your wits and your desire to survive whatever storm your heart is experiencing at the moment by sheer determination and perseverance. It won't be easy. But don't give up.
The Heart is a mysterious creature and despite the fact that nobody has figured out how to neutralize it, you probably wouldn't want to live life without it anyway. No matter how dark today may be. Chin up, have courage. If you cannot manage to care about anything in the world today just remember that you are not alone. We have all been lost in the depths of our heart's despair at some point or another. If you're lost there now, just allow yourself to be sorrowful. Tomorrow you can work on finding just one thing in the world that is not bad. Perhaps the sunlight through a flower, or a best friend's company. Tomorrow you can slowly try to remind your heart that the world hasn't ended. Today, you're allowed to just be sad as long as you don't give up altogether.
So, farewell, dear reader, and be brave in your explorations into the final frontier, the Heart.