Art is for the Heart

I’ve been drawn to the arts since I was a child. My early education began with Grimm fairy tales, Aesop fables and epic adventures like Arabian Nights and Huckleberry Finn. When I wasn’t reading, I was in my parent’s bedroom listening to music on their stereo. Later on, I learned to appreciate art in museums. Of course, theatre and movies are also a big part of my life.

But going from spectator to creator took a long time. I’ve only been writing for a few years and sharing my work is even more recent. It’s not always easy to put myself out there so I am always searching for reasons continue.

Luckily, I discovered a new reason and it’s a big one. It has to do with the heart. I admit I often don’t give much consideration to the heart. I have always been fascinated by and gravitated toward the mind and its infinite capabilities. Currently, I’m reading Michael Singer’s new book Living Untethered and learning about the heart. While the mind is thought, the heart is emotion. It turns out that the heart opens and closes in accordance to the emotions we feel. For example, when an emotion is pleasant, say, falling in love, the heart opens. If we experience an unpleasant emotion, we unconsciously close our heart. If we paid enough attention, we would see this opening and closing clearly. Left to its own devices, the heart can provide us with a beautiful symphony. But we don’t like to suffer so we don’t let the heart feel what it feels.

Most writers would say that writing is a way to understand the world, to make sense of what we experience both inside and outside of ourselves. It’s as if, in the process of imagining or of coming up with a way to express a thought, our experiences get distilled into something that was not clear before we wrote it down. The mind has figured out a way to free an idea that was stuck. We are freer for it.

But what about the heart? If our hearts close in response to painful emotions, how do those get released? I believe one major reason why humans are drawn to the arts is that they provide a safe way for the human heart to experience its full range of emotions. It does this without the risk of suffering, and therefore, allowing our hearts to remain open.

Consider this when you watch a horror movie, or listen to a song about heartbreak. How about reading a novel where a main character dies? Most likely, if you chose to expose yourself to this art, you would not leave the theatre or throw out the book. If any of these situations arose in real life, our hearts may not be able to handle it. And yet, experiencing these emotions in a safe way allows our hearts to open.

Writing fiction to make sense of the world has been a good enough reason for me to write so far. But writing stories to allow myself and readers to experience all emotions of the heart seems like an incredibly compelling reason to never stop.

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