The feature song of Leonard Cohen’s posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance, asks the deepest question of all, what happens to the heart when we leave this world? The heart, after all, houses the deepest treasure of our Earthbound odyssey, love.
Love, as we experience it in this life, is a developmental process that begins post-birth in the raw emotion that cries out for attention, for comfort, food, and security. This is the love of primal attachment, facilitated by the inborn post-uterine archetypes triggered upon arrival at birth. Thus the rooting reflex in the infant, and the instincts to nurture, protect, and bond in the parents, combine to initiate the love odyssey of a lifetime.
Emotion is the love energy that roots us to this Earth as it compels us to attach through sensual desire and hunger for fulfillment. Without emotion we exist only on a mental plane, out of body, or in the head. No disrespect to the mental plane, but without emotion, there is no real connection to life.
Nonetheless, emotion as experienced through passion, need, and want is merely the outer wrapping of love that must be peeled away for love to truly take up residence in the heart, where love loves all. The overwhelming tantrum of anachronistic narcissistic, infantile entitlement to attention in adult years must transmute, to include the world beyond its own self, before it can reach another in the utter calm of true love.
What makes love such a powerful driver in this life is its intent for us to rediscover our lost wholeness. Life in this world of time and space, where people come and go, highlights our experience as distinct separate human beings. This is contradicted in quantum physics, where it can be demonstrated that, at a subatomic level, everything and everyone is energetically ONE. And that ONE only becomes separated into distinct physical particles when human beings interact with it.
Thus, we are fundamentally an interconnected ONE, having the solid dream of a life, that begins and ends as a separate human being. This manifest dream is merely a surface version of our true underlying interdependent Oneness. Thus, the love dramas of our lives are our surface attempts to find our way home to the latent reality of our underlying wholeness.
When Carlos Castaneda asked don Juan Matus which was the true reality, energetic or physical, don Juan’s reply was that both were real, although energetic reality was the ultimate reality. Physicists would agree. Newtonian physics and quantum physics are both right. One deals with the dream of physical reality, the other energetic reality. What is solid and separate is ultimately energetic and ONE.
We are apparently in this dream of separateness to fully experience the glue that binds us in our ultimate oneness, love. From childhood attachment to family, onto adolescent crush beyond the family, then onto the multiplicity of adult relationships throughout the life cycle, we project all that is missing in us onto people and objects, as we desperately seek to unite with, then mercilessly must let go of, everything, in death. This labyrinth of love teaches us, in dream after dream, to arrive at our One true love, love that loves all.
Though I know Leonard Cohen now knows the answer to the question he posed before he left this world, I venture an answer from this life.
Q: What happens to the heart when it leaves?
A: Transformation into the love of pure equanimity—love that loves all.
Beyond the stormy and cloudy skies of now, this is the love that our physical world dream is inevitably approaching. Full steam ahead!
Listen here to Leonard Cohen: Happens to the Heart