Strip-Mining the Heart

You know those pictures, from the surface coal mining spots. Those crates, as wide as they are deep. Or those blown-away mountain tops. Those endless killing fields, black, where even death fears dying. You know even from afar that those corners are cursed, given over to ruin. It’s not only that people can do such things; far more it’s the shock that life is capable of permitting such to happen. From the depth of those infinite pits, the horror wafts.

The heart is not an endless gift. It is not even a gift at all – in the sense of having been given to us. Our capability to see, pure and merciless in the youth, tended to fade as we were worn by the years, or that we allowed them to do so with every month we evaded our need to live by the heart. Not just follow it, not just trust it, but act from it, without hesitation, questioning, or excuse.

The important thing to understand is that your heart isn’t yours. Understand this, because otherwise your heart will be what all the fairy-tales about the heart will tell you – it’ll grow cold. Which might even be a good thing nonetheless, as a cold heart is more than none at all. You can lose your heart, as you can lose your soul, which, at times, isn’t always distinguishable. Again, your heart isn’t your heart. It belongs to the world. It’s the way the world can talk to you, the way other people can talk to you, the way the fairies and the wind can talk to you. Your heart is the world talking to you. If you lose your heart, which isn’t yours, then what comes from this is that you no longer can see and feel the world. You no longer feel, except anger and, perhaps, bitterness. That’s why in the tales when a young lad is on his way into the world, losing his heart, growing cold, becoming anger, greed, scorn, it’s the woman that enters the stage, walks to him, touches his hand, greets his soul, redeems his deads. Your heart isn’t yours, the heart belongs to the world because it is the world’s only way to reach you.

Strip-mining. Becoming cold through exhaustion, by waiting, by deferred hopes. Everyone sees that you’re a landscape broken wide open by a devastating mining operation that not only brings to the surface what has its place down below but that rips off you what belonged to your depth. That is what anyone can see. What you call broken people, the homeless, the down and out … in Paris, New York, Sobibor … those are not people whom you see in their state of being brutalized. Rather, they are people who know that there heart has been strip-mined, still is strip-mined, who look in terror at what has happened to them. That is the desperation in their eyes. Whenever you think about Auschwitz, Buna …, what you see, what hell consists of, is people who know that their hearts have been strip-mined, taken away from them. You can see that they are witnesses … witnesses of their own destruction. This knowledge of being abused, slaughtered, beaten, cursedly loved, caressed … in this specific knowledge-that … lies the anguish of a heart devastated.

The horror of understanding that your heart has been taken away. Your being world has been taken away, your giving world your loving care, your attention, has been taken away. You’ll never heal from that, not out of your own, not from your own depths. Your depths have become a construction site where trucks drive through and therapists urge you to become whole again, responsible. But you don’t redeem Auschwitz by therapy. You don’t cater the heart land by ego, you don’t do embroideries with a pneumatic hammer (and neither by building a cathedral). The woods and trees, the leaves and the wind that goes through them, this one wind that doesn’t stop but simply goes someplace else, leaving us behind, this wind that moves leaves and clouds and hearts, that drives thoughts in front of him like the clouds of a coming thunderstorm … you know that wind, not the soft gentle breeze but the wind that will kill you by showing you that the black clouds and the rain and the fear and the sorrow, the anguish and despair, all, yes all, come from this one place which is the heart lost and the soul torn.

Don’t be happy that you can still feel fear or anger. This is not the sign that your heart is still beating. Your heart isn’t yours. And you feeling your heart being ripped off you means feeling that you can never again find a way the world and you be in love. Your heart lost means knowing that your way into the world is lost. The path into the world, through the world, beyond … this path, like all paths you may find in the woods, isn’t something you’ve laid down, no Antonio Machado, it ain’t, the path in front of you and behind you has been laid down by the world whose heart it always was that you’ve been forced to listen to when you were young and gay and the lights all sparkling and the sun on the river’s surface … and the laughter of your love, your true love, the one because of whom all this world had become good and meaningful, this one that made the world good and true … gone, of course, now that the years have gone in circles and and the circles only mimic, if they’re not just identical with, your waiting, your holding still, holding back, holding your breath, not to destroy this filigree balance or image of what you feel is world, which often is your remembrance and memories which keep the world as it has been in front of your inner eyes so that you can understand and see what the path was the world has provided you with … Yes, this is what remembrance was supposed to do for you. But as you lost your memory, as things you put in places inner and outer had been distorted, their order broken, like a devastated library’s books all on the floor, the floor and the shelves no longer visible and the books just rotten leaves in the autumn’s mist … See, your heart isn’t yours, your memories just your way to keep your understanding alive of what looks like the paths you’ve always seen … But now it’s different.

Strip-mining. When the heart is broken wide open, not by love, not this kind of breaking wide open, but this other one, not the one a lover, person, creature, or world, does, no, the other way of breaking open, the devastating one. We call it practical constraints, duty, work, responsibility.

No, I’m not decrying work, responsibility, even practical constraints, at least not as far as they build soul. Or used to build. To grow soul. Nowadays they no longer do. That’s why they’re so exhausting, debilitating. Because they don’t nourish us anymore. Now they’re a plight, a draining of life, something you give away. We sell our souls in order to feed our bodies, banal as it sounds, it’s the old dilemma, through all the ages and places. Follow your soul and you’re allowed to starve to death … or gain material equilibrium and wonder why your soul has long left you. Dying at every moment. But even then, we had moments. Moments of joy, of relief, of wild imagery, of ecstatic delirium, of so endless hope, this hope that wasn’t distinguishable from joy … gone now, and the practical constraints of today now feed on us. This world became anew as feasibility joined forces with this economic Ponzi scheme which leaves us producing endless goods so we can afford to buy a little bread. This seeming senseless world in which goods and services are produced that no-one is happy to buy or to afford them because they no longer mean anything to us … this world is the theatrical props that populate a stage in the background of which the real world lies, the one that is nourished by our attention we need to come up with in the production of goods and services.

The world as it has become is not one of things or facts or what … it’s a world that still, like all the others before, lives and thrives through our attention, our care. Caring for things and practical constraints reveals and enables a world of spirits that feed on our anger, our hate, our exhaustion, our hopelessness. This is a world that doesn’t give anything back anymore. And that’s why we feel that judgement is nigh … again, like so often, but it’s here now and comes in this form because that’s the only way we can bear that timeless hopelessness. Because it’s a world fitting to our broken hearts. A world that needs exactly those hearts, to talk to us. It still feeds us, but this time with exhaustion, hopelessness, anger, senselessness. It’s no longer a world with paths laid out, circles to go. No walks in the woods, seemingly endless, senseless. Now with goals in mind, time got short, even shorter, always shorter.

So we came to this. Our heart is the world’s heart. And a world fitting to our hearts. In this new world our hearts get ripped from us and all we feel is this being robbed and thrown out onto this place of senselessness. This is because this new world doesn’t lay out paths anymore, just opportunities. It feeds on our anger and exhaustion. But again, that is only how it feels to witness your heart being taken from you. Strip-mining, an end of time in itself.

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