“The eye never forgets what the heart has seen.” – African proverb
Advances in science and technology have driven our evolution. Starting out as hunter-gathers, it has afforded us greater control over the way we live – all the while energising us to modify and enrich our interactions to our present era, wherein we are not only capable of dominating our environment but can genetically engineer almost anything and everything. What’s most interesting about our scientific triumphs is that we are not resting on our oars. On the contrary, we keep pushing ourselves to develop more enabling technologies which can mechanically mimic our minds as well as hands.
All in all, our attempts at self-actualisation is on track to becoming a reality. However, we often find ourselves short-changed when our science and technology predict impacts that do not materialise. For example, we reasoned that improving all aspects of our living standards would make our communities safer, our lives richer and interactions more harmonious. Ironically, the impact seems to be rather the opposite. Our world is more divided than ever, and we feel less secure about our communities and interactions. This has led us to take the next logical steps of strengthening our laws and imposing stiffer penalties on offenders. But this has not prevented crime and the rise of criminality. We need to understand that our intellectual predictions won’t always stand the test of time. It is time we complemented it with our natural coping system.
We are making great advances with our reasoning abilities, but this seems to be generating a related rise in misconduct and immorality as well. This defect arises because knowledge is at best a preventive measure, but does not guarantee right living. We may know what the right thing to do is, but having that knowledge is not the same as living rightly. That is where, sometimes, our intellectualism, our scientific and technological advances end. And because for too long we have been focusing on our reasoning prowess to the detriment of our hearts, we have been short-changing ourselves instead of creating synergies.
It is true that every part of the human body is important, but we have prioritised the ‘brain’ as the one that serves us best – and thus we keep channelling our energies at it. But if we re-examine our ‘body’ closely, the ‘heart’ plays a bigger role in our survival and thriving than the ‘brain’. When the ‘heart’ stops functioning, we die. Yet we can have some form of life even when the ‘brain’ stops functioning.
This is not to say we do not need the ‘brain’ – far from that. It is only to make us aware the time has come to heal our hearts, so we can have holistic development that would generate the synergies we need for our self-actualisation.
Moreover, if we take into consideration that the key ingredient for self-actualisation is the ability to cultivate deep and loving relationships with others, then we realise we need our hearts more than our brains. Not only does a healthy heart make us appreciate our uniqueness, but also our wonderfulness. It is a feat that drives us to see others in the same light and empower us to relate to them in the best possible manner – nobly. We have an inborn goal to self-actualise.
Carl Rogers, the American psychologist, describes it as a continuous lifelong process of maintaining our individual self-concept and enhancing it via reflection and the reinterpretation of various experiences to enable us recover, change and develop. To be able to achieve this, we need the heart to lead the brain – not the other way round.
Sadly, many of us have forgotten the importance of our hearts to our flourishing. It is a forgetfulness that makes us doubt its potential. It is akin to a relationship that has fallen into disuse; the failing memory makes us doubt its efficacy. But we need to understand that the heart is the organ that helps us to truly remember who we are. It is the only organ that can help us overcome the perplexing behaviour of knowing something to be wrong and yet refusing to follow the moral compass. It takes courage to live by the heart. But when we do, we will conquer our weakness – not just be resisting evil and immorality; we proactively make this world a better place by striving to do good, live honestly and appreciate the beauty around us.
Life is not all about cold, hard facts. The opposite also exists. That is where the warm, soft particulars come into play. This is the role the heart plays. It energises us to question the essence of vicious, political witch-hunting; our excessive spending on weapons and security; our violence against each other; our preference for corruption and the neglect of morals. If we do not learn to heal the disuse of our hearts, we will never come to appreciate its worth and how much it can contribute to our flourishing.
Kodwo Brumpon is a management consultant and a life coach who inspires individuals, groups and corporate bodies to think and feel that which is true, and empower them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]