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Natural Awakenings NYC & Long Island

In This Issue: February 2021


Of course, we chose the month of Valentine’s Day to focus on heart health. Everyone knows that the heart is the universal symbol of love. But how did that happen? How is that the anatomical heart, an organ that pumps blood to keep us alive, has morphed into the main design feature of Hallmark cards exchanged on February 14? 

We celebrate Valentine’s Day by saying, “I love you,” but where did the red, two-lobed illustration come from? It looks nothing like the four-chamber master muscle within our chest. And what does it have to do with love?

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “The Mysterious Origins of the Enduring Heart Symbol,” the first clear instance of the contemporary heart icon appeared in a French manuscript, The Romance of Alexander, circa 1340: “In the bottom border of one page, on the left-hand side, a woman raises asymmetrical heart with two clearly defined lobes that she has received from the man facing her. She accepts the gift of his heart, while he touches his breast to indicate the place from which it has come.”

But the origins of the heart-love connections go back further, to the ancient Romans. They believed there was a vein, the vena amoris, connecting the heart to the fourth finger of the left hand. That belief eventually led to the medieval practice of the groom placing the wedding ring on his bride’s fourth finger. Interesting stuff!

We can thank the ancient Greeks, however, for giving us names for the ways we love.

I love my two boys unconditionally, with my whole heart. They are my world, and I would never want to go back in time to when they weren’t on this earth with me. This type of love is called storge. It flows between parents and children.

The love I have for Michael is just as deep, but different from my love of our boys. For without our union, they would not be, and without Michael, I would not have my soulmate. The ancient Greeks called this emotion pragma, enduring love.

The love I have for a warm summer day at the beach—appreciating the blue sky, the sand in my toes, and the sound of the waves crashing—is called agape, universal love of nature.

Then there is philia or platonic love. That’s what we feel for our friends.

I suspect that the past year has strengthened all these types of love in us—through forced separations and forced togetherness, and a renewed sense of wonder from a warm breeze or sunshine on our skin. 

Love is complicated, so I’m grateful for a simple way to express it. It’s never been so heartfelt when I say it now, as our city finds its way out of a challenging time:

IHeart with solid fillNY

May you all find love that fills you with joy, in whatever form that may be!


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