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On Valentine’s Day

February 16, 2017


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it


© Edouard Boubat, 1948


I knew a little boy with a heart so big it fit the entire world. One Valentine’s Day, far too many years ago, he asked me to take him on a trip. We went on an awfully big adventure, to the supermarket’s confectionary aisle. He used all the money he had saved to buy four bright red tin boxes, containing chocolates, in the shape of a heart.


Four hearts. Four Valentines. One proud almost seven-year-old. He carried them home himself, gave one to his mother, one to his sister, and one to me. The last heart he would need a little help with; back into the car we went. It was cold and rainy and we were both soaking wet when we knocked on a lucky little girl’s door.


She was in her pajamas; her hair and teeth were brushed and ready for bed. But even her stiff-lipped mother smiled, a rare occasion, when she saw the little boy and his red heart. He had lost his voice, and most of his courage, but with a discreet little nudge, he gave his Valentine his heart and we grownups let them play for a little while.



i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)


That boy I knew, whose heart was so big it fit the entire world, later went on an adventure of his own. I still carry his heart in mine, and I am never without his bright red tin box.


The language of the heart is universal; it transcends culture, religion, politics, time. The first hearts were drawn on Cro-Magnon hunters’ walls before the first Ice Age. The Egyptians believed that the heart was the center of life and morality. The Greeks, the center of the soul. The Romans believed it to be the single most vital organ for sustaining life. Hindus, Buddhists, Taosts and Confucians, Jews, Christians, Muslims too, all considered the heart the intersection of man’s body and mind.


Across languages the same expressions appeared: knowing by heart, having heart, giving heart. Even after science placed emotions where they belonged, in the brain, popular culture remained enamored with the heart.


‘Man has made many machines, complex and cunning, but which of them indeed rivals the workings of his heart?’

– Pablo Casals


On the 3rd of December, 1967, Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human heart transplant. Fifty Valentines have passed since then, and every year around the world, 5,000 heart transplants are performed. But there are 50,000 people on the waiting list. And there are hundreds of thousands more waiting for kidneys, livers, lungs.


                                   i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)


This Valentine’s day, in this country, millions and millions of people gave away 19.7 billion dollars’ worth of heart-shaped chocolate, candy, cardboard, gold, silver, tin. Of those millions and millions who gave away hearts, less than half are on organ donor lists.


                       you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you


here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)


We take nothing with us when we die, and not much of us remains, but that which we leave in the hearts and memories of the ones we have touched.


and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart


i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

- e.e. cummings


I knew a little boy with a heart so big it fit the entire world. He gave it away with the unhesitant generosity only almost seven-year-olds can have. He lived, he loved, he left. He left me a bright red tin box. One that once contained chocolates and was shaped like a heart. I carry him in my heart, and would like, one day, to be carried in someone’s too.


A heart is a beautiful thing to give away on Valentine’s Day.



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