Meditation On the Ghost in My Machine
Sitting here, I can feel the bass beat of my heart, the constant percussion, solid and strong. It’s reassuring, for sure, and somehow also fragile. I can’t see it or directly take care of it or take it in my hands and comfort it or put a Band-Aid on it or clean it. I can’t open a gas tank and refill it, I can’t tighten anything with an adjustable, can’t use duct tape or glue or needle and thread. It’s in there, completely protected, yet out of my reach.
Thank you, my heart, I whisper, for your constancy, for never taking a break, asking for a vacation, never being late for work. That little muscle will push two thousand gallons through my body today and will pump somewhere around one hundred thousand times to do so.
I time it at sixty four beats per minute, a reminder of my humanity and my biology and how it all depends on that inner drum beat. As long as that muscle works, and works on its own with no help from me, I continue on as a sentient being on this blue rock. It’s never stopped once that I know of my entire life and will have pulsed north of two billion times by my sixty eighth birthday in May.
How does it keep going on, beat after blood-filled beat, day after day, hour after hour? I know we can explain the process biologically, but that doesn’t quite take the measure of the ghost in this machine.
Four openings: aorta, vena cava, pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein. Two distinct sides. Blood travels in a circuit from the smaller right side to the lungs and back, refreshing the oxygen, then crosses over to the larger stronger left side to be pushed into the body. The elements in our bodies, like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, have a specific electrical charge. Almost all of our cells can use these charged elements, called ions, to generate electricity.
All standard textbook material, easy to look up. It’s quite remarkable, really, but not quite a miracle, since every mammal on the planet has one.
“How are you, my heart?” I wonder. Do you need anything from me? Am I taking care of you? I do take you for granted, I know that, which is a good thing, mostly.
I didn’t just decide to have my heart go, that wasn’t my choice, though it was a birthright. The reality does occur like a miracle, though, when I think of how vulnerable it all is. I’m not toes up, because of a fist-sized piece of tissue that I have no direct control over. It’s a gift to be able sit still long enough to feel the inner tide, the interplay of systole and diastole, and be in a state of wonder over one of the everyday enchantments that we get to take for granted because our faith remains undisturbed.
A lot of blessings are so every day and so simple, underneath us and around us and right next to us, like the grout you don’t notice between colorful kitchen tiles. Great joy is possible in the dirt-simple stuff of this world.
That’s been a constant theme in these pages. Focusing on what I take for granted and just shining a light on it, even if ever so briefly. That’s the dance. We get to take so much for granted and yet get so much in return when we don’t.