The biblical notion of the "heart"
(whether the Hebrew Leb or the Greek kardia) implies the full person of a
human beingthe intellect, emotion, volition, even body. As Karl Barth affirmed:
"[T]he heart is not merely a but the reality of man, both wholly of
soul and wholly of body" (436). As such, to read with our heart is to employ our
whole person. This noticing of particularity, this living in physei, that Hopkins
and Dillard recommend is not something that can be done in an abstract, disembodied state.
We have to notice the wilting of the washed dandelions underneath the fruitless mulberry
on a cold day in October on Nolan River Road. As Malcom Guite observes, "[T]he arts
are never discarnate, they always begin and end in the realm of time and sense,
however much they give us glimpses of another realm which transcends it. [. . . E]very
effort to incarnate our own thoughts in the web of language is underwritten by Gods
expression of his Word in Christ" (32). We sometimes forget that Christianity is a
religion of the body. God created the world and called it good; Christ came to us, to
sweat, eat, and weep; we are promised a new heaven and a new earth with a resurrection
body; we are enjoined to not only fast but also feast.
Gina Bria, in an essay called "A Theology of Things," suggests that God has
created human beings to experience truth through our physical senses. Bria, in particular,
points to the way our memories are dependent to a large extent on the proximity of
physical objects we have experienced. Following the Russian linguist Victor Vygatsky, Bria
states that "our memory is stored not only inside our language, inside our heads, but
outside of our selves as well, in the visual and tactile cues we receive from the material
around us" (10). As such, we often lose our memories because we are separated from
things that act as receptacles of them -- a favorite chair, a beloved scarf, a cherished
tool or book. She urges,"Taste the bread, brothers and sisters, taste the bread, hold
it, sniff it, put in to your lips, and know the incarnate God, who made the earth and put
us among things, for our pleasure and his" (13).
It is as "hearts," as embodied beings, that must learn and grow and change in
this created life God has made for us. Molly Peacock in her aptly named poem, "Why I
Am Not a Buddhist," praises the bodily life: "I love the things Ive
sought--/ you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll/ from my
billfoldand love what I want: clothes,/ houses, redemption" (3-6). And she
suggests that suffering in this kind of world is just what God has created us for:
But why is desire suffering?
Because want leaves a world in tatters?
How else but in tatters should a world be?
A columned porch set high above a lake.
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony,
The spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love. (13-18)
In such a world of bodies, we love our families, our lovers, our friends, our
neighborhoods. And poetry is part of that love.