More than three decades ago, in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, when the powerful, entranced Thuggi Priest was about to claw out Indiana Jones’ heart with his bare hand, the young sidekick, Short Round, shouted across the cavernous, blazing fire-pit, “Protect your heart, Dr. Jones! Protect your heart!!’
But the heart is not just a pump, an arbiter of mortality. It is much more. It is the executive organ. The ears and eyes are mere funnels for collecting data. The mind organizes and processes these data converting them into information. Then it sorts and ranks them by various criteria. Pros and cons follow from that. The heart takes in all of this, and just as a CEO does, makes an executive decision about what to do – Wait, Go Ahead or Dismiss. Preferences, feelings, responsibility, courage, sincerity, honesty, trust, consistency, meaningfulness, and other subjective criteria team together in the heart for successfully achieving this end.
So, what or who are the enemies of the heart which will render it into a mere fluid pump? What should concern us when defending such a priceless asset? The heart needs to be able to decide in favor of right over wrong, kindness over cruelty, beauty over ugliness, quality over quantity, etc. This type of responsibility of the heart cannot be compromised by limiting its capacity. The unprotected heart will prove incapable of pulling off its true role, that of making a dignified, godly life possible. We need to stand vigilantly at the entryway to the heart to shoo away all the forces that may be throwing interferences its way.
Thus, the protection of the heart is not only about physical survival, it is also about surviving as a person with genuine humanity, versatile functionality and superior effectiveness in a multi-faceted, often-times conflicted, existence.
More than seven hundred years ago, an astute scholar listed and explained five factors that interfere with the heart’s capacity to fulfil its sublime, non-physical role.
His prescription was, in its turn, inspired by yet another much older historic observation. Paraphrased, we get, “There is a piece of flesh in the body that if it is sound, then everything else will be sound; and if it is lacking, so will everything else.”
The five points, however, may appear mundane and not at all profound. That is because some of them are generally well known and accepted as a matter of common sense, even easily anticipated. Yet a couple of them may elicit “say-what” reaction. But, simple as they may appear, they constitute an aspect of eternal truth and wisdom which the foolhardy ignores at his own peril.
- Foul company. This is about identity and belonging. Wrong type of friendship does have a corrosive effect on the heart. Desperate to strike a friendship, a person in the wrong company will ignore all reasonable suggestions even those which he admits are good, fair, justified and important. In order to be accepted, he seeks to make his chums happy by matching his mood, thinking, interest, vibe and standard with theirs. Thus, he avoids being mocked or thought of as an inferior or a sell-out. The peer pressure to conform is tremendous. So, as another saying goes, “the religion, i.e., the values, of a person are those of his friends”. The once autonomous heart is thus subverted to becoming a subservient entity.
- Unreal fantasy or day dreaming. This is about frittering away time wastefully in frivolous, unreal, impossible pursuits. Having an imagination is good. It is envied if it leads to creativity. Having a vision about something good, great, path-breaking and lasting are dreams to have and nurture. It is celebrated for its impact. However, when the mind pursues whimsical ends, without follow-up, effort, plan, or objectivity, then it is like burning time and brain cells foolishly. These are hair brained schemes, at best. They may occur frequently and in great numbers that they may appear to stumble over one another. However, they have a sweetness about them. A pervasive sense of elation or self-satisfaction takes over. It lulls the sense of caution, doubt or suspicion. That is what gives day dreaming its staying power, its ráison d’être. Thus, dreams and illusions corrupt the heart. For some, it even validates the use of drugs because drugs produce the same sense of euphoria and feel good moments that the body has become accustomed to and enjoys.
- Non-reliance on God. This is about thinking and believing that success will be assured when one is properly connected to and supported by people as well as being properly projected or show-cased. Reliance on people and things other than God for achieving a sense of fulfillment, pride, happiness, validation, dignity, etc. do ruin the heart’s global efficacy. Thus, to such individuals, their looks, pricey possessions, powerful, fashionable, or beautiful circle of friends or well-wishers, etc. carry a weight heavier than that assigned to God in impressing others on their route to material success. However, such things cannot be counted upon to deliver in the long haul. Besides, they matter little when heavy lifting is warranted. Friends and supporters have the tendency to thin out rather quickly. Nobody can really help when there is a tragedy, when health problems crop up, when wealth is lost and income flow dries up. So, there is then no guidance, no peace of mind, no hope, no chance of restitution and rehabilitation this type of dependency can bring about. Friends and well-wishers can only do so much, and if only that. The sublime qualities born of submission, reflection, and appreciation are all lost to a foolishly guided person with a shallow, inadequate, and ultimately limited support system which in reality neither makes or breaks what happens or will happen. By trading away God, the reliance on impermanent becomes woefully tiringly permanent.
- Consumption of food or beverage. One may consume of food and beverages lacking intrinsic value or purity. Even when quality is not in question, the volume of consumption may be excessive. Further, one may resort to unwholesome process in acquiring a food or beverage item. This, too, damages the heart as a decision making organ. So, not all food or drink nourish us equally and some of them harm us. When we crave to consume that which is not good for us, when we consume in excessive volume even those that are safe and when we go out of our way to acquire them, we compromise the heart’s decision making authority. Either we fail to establish boundaries or follow them when they exist. So, the heart becomes accustomed to being careless and caving in. It will be difficult to shake off heart’s lackadaisical bearing thus acquired and prevent it from spreading to other decision making ends.
- Sleeping excessively. Just like food and drink, sound sleep is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Sloth, on the other hand, is bad. It not only puts the body into extended rest thereby attenuating muscles and diminishing reflexes, it consigns the heart to the same static status. The heart becomes under-used. After a prolonged period of disuse, the heart not only refuses to stir productively, it even becomes indifferent toward recognizing and accepting responsibility. Scheduling and punctuality and, therefore, dependability become nuisances in the mind of the supine sloth.