What is a “heart?”
Ask a biologist and you will be told it is an organ for circulating blood around the body. It’s purpose is to ensure an even distribution of heat and other essentials such as oxygen and hormones around the body. That definition makes perfect sense to me.
Ask a poet and you might be told it is something with which a human can feel; something that makes you cry in agony at one moment and then rejoice at the smallest achievements in the next. This definition does not make sense to me.
Evolution dictates that adaptable traits are maintained within a population because they provide an advantage over individuals that don’t possess that trait. What advantage could emotions have provided us in the wild?
Perhaps it is the advantage of kinship, of developing a social system within which members of the population can prosper by working together to survive.
The evolution of bipedal locomotion changed the way in which family communities were structured. As bipedal movement selected for narrower hips in females humans, a trade-off took place: narrower hips were better for moving, but they made birth more difficult. How did humans adapt to this? They started giving birth prematurely—about three months premature, to be accurate. To those who have had children or been around to witness the growth of one, didn’t you notice that at about three months old babies start to get really interesting? At about three months, crucial cognitive processes are completed that allow the baby to finally become truly aware of their surroundings and to start to really learn about the world. Prior to this time, humans would rely on altruistic behaviour to care for their young. This means that aunts and uncles, individuals not directly related to the child, would help out with rearing the young of their brothers and sisters for the good of the community.
So, living in a community connected by emotional attachment is advantageous for rearing children but I can’t help feeling like our emotions have gotten much more complex over time… almost unnecessarily. Finding a mate in the past must have been easy, compared to how it is now. There are a plethora of emotions that go into finding a good partner. It can really take a toll on a person’s heart. Perhaps these emotions are necessary, then, for the good of the generation to come.
But with all this talk of the benefits of emotion in a community, it still hurts like mad when you’re heartbroken.