Our friend Jack (not-his-real-name) underwent a quadruple heart bypass last week. He came out of it doing very well, in fact his family was delighted at how quickly his recovery started to pick up steam. The success rate of such operations tends to make us believe that it is less dangerous than it is, I think, so the fact that he is doing so well, so quickly, is wonderful.

Wait. Before I go on. … This whole “not-his-real-name” thing is becoming an issue in and of itself. Not-his-real-name Jack is related by marriage to not-his-real-name Walter and I have a suspicious feeling that assigning the name Jack to a family member is going to cause Walter’s issues to resurface. He does not love his alter ego, and I’m sure he thinks Jack is a much more manly sobriquet. I, on the other hand, really like the name Walter, which is why I gave it to him in the first place.

More on the not-his-real-name front. It turns out my longtime friend Not-His-Real-Name Peters has changed his name and is now legally called Bob Peters. So turns out I was right about his name after all.

Back to the topic at hand, though. Not-His-Real-Name-Jack went through a serious operation and came out strong on the other side. But, it did get me to thinking about how we talk about the human heart and how we have come to view the term “heartbroken” as defining anything but a physically injured heart. Right? When Jack went for his operation, his wicked smaht sister (Walter’s wife) didn’t tell me, “Jack’s heart is broken, and he needs an operation.” Not even close.

Someone, at some point in history, presumably a poet, decided that the human heart should be assigned properties that made it susceptible to injury from non-physical affronts. If the heart was, well, heart-shaped, I still would wonder what that has to do with anything, but at least I would see some basis for using it in situations involving emotional damage. But it doesn’t.

Maybe, if you put it at some impossible angle and connect the dots to show the heart shape. … But, to me, it’s like looking into the night sky and saying groups of stars look like … anything.

Take Leo the Lion, for example. You tell me you see a lion, even if you don’t have the lines and/or dots to connect. To me, at best, it looks like every stick animal drawing you would find on any preschool class wall.

And don’t get me started on Ursa Major, or Minor even. How does that look like a bear? Someone looked into the sky a thousandty-eleven years ago and said, “Look, honey. Doesn’t that random assortment of stars out of the millions that are up there look like a big bear? It really does, right? It’s like that cloud your Uncle Octavio saw the other day that looked just like a duck.”

So, maybe amidst the people who named the various constellations, was one who decided we needed to tie our body parts back to our emotional state and decided, “Hmmm. Emotional upheaval. Hmmm. We need to make that seem more real by giving it a bodily attribute.”

Then, no doubt, the great debate began. A broken liver? Nah. Kidney? Nah — you’d have to assign different types of pain to each kidney. Lost love would be a broken right kidney; grief a broken left. Let’s not even mention spleens, since everyone knows I have two of them.

So, the heart is and I suppose it always will be where emotional pain resides. I know plenty of you could explain this to me so it made sense. Please don’t bother, and I really mean don’t bother. I don’t really care. This whole column is about venting frustration and worry; concern about the health of my friends.

If someone you know has a medical heart issue, you know how worrying that is. And, let’s face it, there isn’t really anything we can do about it. So, join me in raving and fist-shaking.

In the end, I think all I’m doing about my own situation is raving and fist-shaking. As far as I know, no one invokes the term cancer for other than what it is, unless it’s to name something so ugly or horrific that cancer becomes the only word that will help us describe just how hideous something is.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.

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