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IN a recent conversation with a respected friend, I was intrigued when hearing the expression ‘speaking from the heart’.

This was accompanied by a stylish twirl of the fingers in the direction of the head with the words, “Not from here; no, from the heart.” Anything wrong with that? Of course not. It’s a figure of speech. What then fascinated me, when reflecting on those passionate words, was where did the expression come from? In this amazing age of technological innovation we have the best reference library in the world not far, at any time, from our fingertips; whether it’s in the smartphone, public library, a ‘café’, or the home. It’s called the internet and it must rank as one of the greatest inventions of all time. When browsing the Net I couldn’t get to the origins of ‘from the heart’.

All the promising websites came with the obligation to pay, or get locked in, forever, before you could read any further. No thanks. Anyway, it was going to be more fun doing a bit of decreasingly humble guesswork. Is it possible that the expression came from a time – perhaps two or 3 000 years ago - when most of the people of the world, being familiar with very little beyond life in their own community, gave the heart rather more credit than it deserved? Don’t get me wrong, the heart is a phenomenal organ. Look after it because, like any machine, if you treat it well, it’ll serve you well. But it’s a pump. It pumps blood round the body. There’s another organ that is far superior to the heart and, indeed, to anything else in the human body; that’s the brain. Without the brain the heart won’t work. Without the brain no organ will work other than the one lovingly played by that accomplished musician at the local church. But hang on, a brain is needed there too.


It is my belief that, in the days before mankind had any real medical and scientific understanding, the source of human activity in any one organ would be attributed entirely to that organ. When a person was angry, passionate or scared, the heart would react with a faster heartbeat. As, indeed, it still does today! The average person will have assumed, consciously or otherwise, that every organ in the human body was controlled by itself; a perfectly reasonable deduction. And when the label ‘heart’ was attached (metaphorically speaking only, we hope) to that part of the chest, with the awareness of the heart’s behaviour during extremes of emotion, the expression was born.

In reality, of course, the brain is the centre of the entire nervous system. When the brain stops, then so does the heart. All the emotions – love, hate, excitement, guilt, sadness and fear, to name just a few – start from the brain. What an amazing machine. It doesn’t require a service every 10 000 hours, or trading in for a newer model every two years.  It develops, though once a person is fully grown the brain will actually start to shrink; very slowly, thank goodness (though goodness may have nothing to do with it (lol)). The neurons and connectors that drive the brain diminish in number to the extent that even if you have the good fortune, or perhaps misfortune, to leap beyond centenarian status and into the 120s, as will happen increasingly, your brain is gone and you’re pretty much a vegetable. Will medical science come up with a resolution of that problem?


The sad part about the brain is, in my opinion, less the reduction in its capacity with age, but the lack of good use to which we put it. It is the most phenomenal machine ever known to mankind. It has an enormous ability to absorb information and skills; far more than what is ever used. It is within the brain that emotional intelligence is developed, of which the passionate sincerity of ‘speaking from the heart’ is a key component. In most people, the brain is probably active all the time even when we sleep. But it is neglected. Its truly amazing capacity enables some, who bother, to learn to speak more than 15 languages fluently. Canadian oldie, Powell Janulus, can speak 42!

The use of the brain, and care and respect for it, varies enormously. Ask yourself how much in the way of dark skinned vegetables, oily fish and nuts you eat (if you’re fortunate enough to afford them). Do you exercise regularly? Do you keep well-hydrated? And do you read books, absorbing and reflecting on information and concepts; and adopting brain training techniques? The reality is that that we don’t use the brain enough and we don’t care for it enough. A tip for pupils – always sleep on knowledge gained from study. That resting and renewing activity is also the concrete of knowledge retention. Never revise for an exam on the day it’s held.      

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