“You could know a thing and be, for all purposes, completely ignorant of it”, writes Marilynne Robinson. I am reminded of these words when, on one evening, while reading before sleeping, I put my hand on my chest and I could not feel my heartbeat. Even more shocking is that at that moment, I could not tell from which side of the chest my heart beats, and I had to ask my sister. I could not even remember the last time I cared about my heart. I go through life, shamelessly assured of its functioning. How sad it is for a man not to be an audience to the beats of his own heart?
We could be chary of these things; be aware of the size of the waist or the shape of the knee, alarmed by the slightest change. But sometimes, a body could grow distant with that which it bears, the way my heart and I had grown distant at the time. The way you could grow distant with a good friend. It is a kind of drifting apart that happens between lovers who have grown weary of each other. You are alive, you continue living but your heart has left you. It goes on with its life, and you do too.
If you know adversity, you know these moments well. They are moments when we are afraid of being alone, afraid of closing our eyes to pray, afraid of the evening silence that distracts from the quieting noise of the day, afraid of the emptiness of a weekend, afraid of yourself. At these moments when you are distant from yourself, you cannot face consciousness, or truth of whatever kind, or the lucidity of 3:35 am, or the nudity of the early morning before the sunrise arrives with its falsity. You do not even want to walk close to reflective surfaces, you are afraid of mirrors and the messages in these mirrors.
They are moments that come to you when a dear one dies, or when a heart is broken, or when your boss offers you a dismissal letter. You experience some kind of paralysis. Everything suddenly goes limb and you can barely recognize yourself, and the dead stump on the side of the road or the leaf decaying under the shade of a tree has more life than you do. You cannot breathe. You do not want to think.
Unfortunately, in these moments, the mind is undefeated, an inglorious bastard. It constantly reminds you where you are, and the adversity that strangles you. But the heart is an obliging ally. It does not draw much attention to itself. It does not care. It sits there, quietly beating, refusing to remind you that it exists. Nothing holds you and it together, except, you inhabit the same body. You are prisoners of the same bones.
Perhaps, the heart’s jagged edges prick you when, in these perilous moments, you attempt to give it a thought. So you choose to be completely ignorant of it. Or you could be distracted by an overwhelming dailyness that things, yourself included, pass you by. Whatever the case, it is sad to be alive and not be an audience to the beating of your own heart. Calm down. Give your heart to the world, and if the world leaves its edges more jagged, do it again. Live. And drink a lot of masala tea.