The "Stupid" Hearts Project

January 15th, 2013

Thousands of songs & poems have been written about the “heart”. My favorite classic rock radio stations in the 70’s provided an ongoing audio smorgasbord of heartbreak & heartache, from the fluffy pop of Elton John and Kiki Dee chirping “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” to the angst-ridden, ripped-from-the-soul cries of Janis Joplin, pleading “Take it, Take Another Little Piece of My Heart.” Songs about the heart were usually hits, because so many of us could relate to the pain or the yearning. The noun or term seems to be a euphemism for some amalgamation of our mind, soul, & spirit, somehow the core of who we are and the seat of our emotions as well as our attitudes and mind-set.

The Bible talks in depth about the heart. I did a word-search and found no less than 725 Scriptures that reference the heart, and I’m not talking about in the anatomical sense. It refers to attitudes of the heart (hard, proud), states of the heart (pure, humble, and sincere) and personal attributes, even describing the shepherd/King David as a “man after God’s own heart”.

If you try to think of our essence as human beings as being centered in our mind or consciousness, which would seem to make sense, then why does our chest hurt when we are crushed or disappointed or shocked by bad news? When we lose someone we love, it seems like the ache is centered in our solar plexus. We feel pains, pressure (like an elephant sitting on our chest) racing heartbeats, and shortness of breath. This must be how the term “HEART” came to represent the core of who we are.

I just finished reading “Proof of Heaven” by Dr. Eben Alexander, a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, where he describes his near death experience during a coma caused by a rare case of bacterial meningitis in his brain. During his 6-day coma his brain was shut down and completely inactive. There were NO BRAIN WAVES or activity, yet he still experienced the purest form of consciousness. His experiences were awe-inspiring and over-whelming for him, and he struggled to find words to describe them.


Dr. Alexander’s experience seemed to reinforce the idea for him that in spite of all of his advanced medical and scientific knowledge of the brain, what makes us uniquely human is NOT our mind. In fact, although he knew that the biological and neurological activities that are centered in the brain govern our physical functions as well as our ability to think, analyze, remember the past, and reason – he concluded that our soul or spirit did not reside there.

So I guess that brings us back to the HEART as the term or image most have agreed upon (God, humans, scientists, musicians & poets) to describe our: soul, spirit, unique repository of memories & experiences that form and shape our personalities, responses, emotions, motivations, consciousness and attitudes.

Years ago I had a strange idea to try to visually create the LOOK of different states or stages of the heart. I assembled some wood, Styrofoam, backing canvas boards, paints and other mixed media, then decided it was a stupid idea and packed it all away. It stayed packed away through 4 moves until a few months ago (EIGHTEEN years later!) I unearthed it while cleaning out my basement. The STUPID HEARTS PROJECT I called it back then. So what if I resurrected THE STUPID HEARTS PROJECT? Only this time it would be informed by an entire series of events and experiences, some of which have caused me great emotional pain. I could explore what that pain looked like. I could explore what other people’s pain looked like. What the damage looked like. I mean tactilely and visually. I could explore what it looked like when people took steps to PROTECT their hearts from the damage inflicted by living life. Isolation? Encasement? What does being “EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE” look like?

So these are the questions that will fuel the resurrection and launch of THE STUPID HEARTS PROJECT. My counselor Margaret says we will find a new name for this that’s not self-denigrating. I’m working on that self-denigrating thing.


  • I have permission to express ANY emotion I want to – even ANGER and DEPRESSION
  • I have permission to NOT be cool or artsy or sophisticated or trendy or creative like in a hipster bohemian fashion. I will not stop coloring my hair, wear Birkenstocks, granny clothes, or throw away my make-up.
  • Tattoos or body piercings in order to look dark & rebellious are not required.
  • I can be as loose and crazy with the materials as I like
  • I can also be detailed and meticulous and overwork some things if I like. I can be artsy-craftsy if I want!
  • NO identifiable style is OK and even good, allowing me to dive into any style that the individual piece demands in order to best express the emotion or concept I’m striving for – I can be stylistically schizophrenic.
  • I can use ANY MEDIUM I feel like in order to best express the emotion or concept I’m striving to put forth. I can be a dilettante. (I once had an art school professor who scoffed at us and told us we were all a bunch of dilettantes – which I had to go look up. It meant “somebody who is interested in the fine arts but who takes up a subject or interest in a superficial or desultory way, and essentially becomes a master of no media, subject or art form.”)
  • I can take as long as I want to – even years – I’m free and under no pressure unless I want to set a goal for myself.
  • I can disregard any notion of people ever seeing this or liking this or it being shown in a gallery for the art snobs – I can throw away the idea that this would EVER have to be marketable! Yeh! Not a penny!
  • I can do as many pieces or as few as I like
  • I can throw something away and start over if it sucks
  • I can get excited about this. I can PLAY.
  • I’m free to enjoy the process as much as the product, maybe even more.
  • I’m doing this for myself first and foremost because I believe this will help with my own healing.
  • Secondarily, I wouldn't mind if these pieces and images could help others who have experienced emotional damage to their hearts. It would be amazing if someone who’s all bound up inside sees maybe just ONE of these images of wounded brokenness and feels like they can relate, that this describes how they feel inside but couldn’t articulate it and now know they are not alone.
  • I would desire that the images of the healing process could begin to manifest themselves and take root in some people (myself?) and to give hope to others who feel irreparably devastated or torn apart.