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Poetry vs. Science: The Beatless Heart
[After the jump, hearts that don't have a beat and songs that barely have a pulse.]
Drs. Cohn and Frazier jury-rigged a contraption that held together two ventricular assist pumps (a standard medical device, but most patients only have one of them, and they assist the heart instead of replacing it). The two whirring motors pushed blood through Lewis' body in a continuous flow. His wife told the radio reporters that when she put her ear to her husband's chest, she didn't hear a beat—only a faint hum. The heart allowed Lewis to live for another month before his body finally succumbed to the overall effects of his disease.
The doctors are elated at the prospect that their device may be used to help other patients with faulty tickers. However, the NPR story pointed out that their mechanical device is a radical deviation from the pulsing artificial organs currently in development by biomedical companies, and it could be very difficult for society to become comfortable with the idea of a beatless heart.
In poetry and literature, the heartbeat is our shorthand for soul-to-soul connection. "Hearthum" or "heartwhir" just doesn't have the same ring. Consider the following from that classic chest beater, John Keats:
I love your hills, and I love your dales,
Or these lyrics, from various artists:
Two of hearts/Two hearts that beat as one / I need you, need you — Stacey Q, "Two of Hearts"
Two hearts are beating together / I'm in love, I'm in love / Is this forever and ever? — Kylie Minogue, "Two Hearts"
You know I feel it in my heartbeat / It may feel old to you, but to me it feels new — Madonna, "Heartbeat" (which Pharrell Williams must have admired so much that he used a similar phrase in his own "Heartbeat": She says she feels it in her heartbeat / Makes me feel only you / But to me it feels new)
Hmm...on second thought, the pulseless heart may present an interesting challenge to pop lyricists who have turned beating hearts into thudding tropes. Try as we might, we actually couldn't think of any songs or poems in which the concept of the heartbeat was used in an utterly original way. Can you? Please tell us your favorite heartbeat lyrics.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.