Reflections on Heartstrings #4

Stanford’s essay: Heartstrings #4.

This poem of Stanford’s is broad and general, meant obviously for the beginner or those who have long taken to the Stanford mindset, offering little new it seems but some run-of-the-mill Stanford doctrine for guidance, and reassurance.  The content of the poem as such it has to be said is mundane – just a collection of religious thoughts, delivered in a manner that may stimulate potential spiritual feeling in the reader, but which are wholly unremarkable.

Though the poem could be written in prose, the poetic form allows for less structured content, a sequence of loosely connected ideas that might have been written at the time they occurred to the writer.

The title “follow your heart” would more accurately be “follow your feelings” as it is well known the heart is just a pump.  One group of people who follow their feelings are gambling addicts, and the result is not often happiness but financial loss.  Not that feelings should be ignored, not at all, but the brain is also equipped with the ability to reason.  A feeling may be to eat ice cream, but reason says to do so in moderation.  Following our feelings would have us eating at McDonalds more often and avoiding any situations causing fear.

Stanford’s advice to “follow your heart” then sounds nice, and works quite well in a religious context – following any religious desire as you would for a Big Mac or three cherries appearing on a fruit machine.  But in itself the advice of Stanford’s is simplistic and potentially dangerous.

A horse that has been well flogged before, doomsday, is described with added poetic vigour: “heaviest rain, hardest wind, hottest..”, nastiest, worst, ever, etc., on separate lines no less.  (Stanford informatively tells us we will be “ducking for cover” in case you had not guessed.) This is obviously for dramatic effect, rhetoric to bring to mind such catastrophe as to defy the imagination, a doomsday with more doom than the doomsday of any other. But why?

Is it important to know the details of how terrible the prophesized end-of-the-world will be?  It is not unlike the Catholic’s embellished accounts of hell. Perhaps the dramatic detail makes it seem more real – it’s effective storytelling and a means of countering doubt based on a track record of previous prophetic duds.  Or, like accounts of hell, it taps into people’s fear.  Or, it keeps people who hang on to Stanford’s prophecy living in hope.

In telling people to “follow your heart”, Stanford also tells them to “retreat and simplify their lives instead of parading and pandering to the ego”.  Apparently this is where the heart should be followed to.  Lead to such a place, one might well be at risk of becoming decommissioned as a member of society and reinstated instead into religious zombiedom.  The reader would be well cautioned: be careful where the heart may lead you.

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