Sunday, 17 August 2014

Head vs. Heart

The longest race you will ever run is the race between your head and your heart. The age old conundrum still plagues a lot of us today. There is the cold, rational side and then there is the warm emotional side. So the question often comes down to which one do we follow?
Well a lot of us are inherently very logical and a lot of us are inherently very emotional. And I think one cannot do without the other.
 As far as the logical people(I shall stick to the variety I Know) go , they do have emotions too ( of course they too have a limbic system , hippocampus and amygdala). It’s just that they have grown accustomed to seeing beauty in ideas and concepts since they are absolutely perfect. This is also why you will find such people attached to their science or art very tenaciously. So they just choose to look at a particular side of things. But the best things in life are not things at all. Somethings do need to be felt. I could agree that evolution has given us a large pre-frontal cortex. But the limbic system( the emotional center) persists as well. And the mistake that a rationalist makes at time is to suppress anything that isn’t remotely intellectual. They brand it as irrational and hence unworthy. Yet, the limbic system continues working and that need to connect is always there. If you have read Franz Kafka’s story ‘ The Hunger Artist’ you probably know what I mean. The hunger artist dies trying to fast for 45 days. And the only reason he fasts is that he does not like the food that he is being given. The point being , the craziest of people actually need only the slightest of understanding . They won’t be irrational , they just won’t be miserable. Sometimes it may appear that misery and rationality go hand in hand. But I have recently learnt that that is a falsehood. The purpose of being rational is to see the truth. And the truth is sublime , though sometimes hurtful. But the quest for the truth can never really be worth misery. I think it is more rational and logical that the quest for the truth yields happiness as opposed to misery. Of course as Bukowski said, “ Beautiful lies , beautiful lies …. Al people want to hear is beautiful lies .” But then a rationalist is following the truth because it makes sense and is beautiful. So shouldn’t the truth bring happiness and not misery? Isn’t a rationalist’s  love for misery just another defence mechanism , or ‘ wall’ or ’shield’ from letting people in? Based on my experiences I believe that being rational can never mean being miserable. There are certain moments when beauty presents itself as logic , sometimes it presents as emotion. It would be a shame if one could not experience both.

Consider the case of a doctor . Working in medicine wards for a while has taught me that a government hospital gets the most heart-wrenching cases. Now a doctor has to be rational. He has to not let any emotions cloud his judgement since his job is ultimately to treat. And nothing can come in the way of the right diagnosis or the right treatment. But beneath the white coat , too there is a man. And if you followed the medical jargon in the preceding paragraph , he too has a limbic system and an insula( the centre for empathy). He too naturally feels for someone in pain . So what should our doctor do? Does he become cold and just treat the disease and not the patient ? Or does he get so involved in the patient that he makes the wrong diagnosis? Head or Heart? This brings in the concept of medical ethics-The idea that a physician must be empathetic and understanding along with being objective in his treatment. This naturally allows both head and heart to function. And that middle path is what makes the best of doctors. The fine balance between head and heart.
And on the personal front , there is a time when you have to listen to your heart , even though your mind is not always sure. Because somethings (such as emotion) truly aren’t answerable by a logical approach in their purest form. Sometimes the best analysis is to know when to stop analysing and when to just savour the moment for what it is rather than what it could be.

Ultimately , it should suffice to say that a human ultimately has both head and heart, not just one. The best doctors are those who feel and treat. The best friends are those who you do not have to analyze. After all , every recluse needs a muse. 

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