Thinking lately about what it means to have, which intimates the question of what it means to tend to one’s own heart rightly, I was reminded of a passage from what may be ever written about the art of growing older: “The main thing is this,” Grace Paley wrote in 1989, “when you get up in the morning you must take your heart in your two hands. You must do this every morning.”
I was reminded, too, of a kindred passage penned two years earlier by another titan of thought and feeling in language:(February 18, 1931–August 5, 2019), writing in her 1987 masterpiece ( ) — the novel that soon made her the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize, which she accepted with a .
From within the story’s broader meditation onand the body as the locus of liberation, Morrison unspools this splendid sentiment from the lips of her protagonist:
In this place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs, flesh that dances onin the grass. Love it. I love it hard.
A century after Walt Whitman declaimed inthat “the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern and includes and is the soul,” composing his reverent catalog of body parts — “head, neck, hair, ears, drop, and tympan of the ears… mouth, tongue, lips, teeth… strong shoulders… bowels sweet and clean… brain in its folds inside the skull-frame… heart-valves…” — Morrison writes:
Love your hands! Love them. Raise them and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face… Love your mouth…to be loved. Feet that . And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and life-giving private parts… love your heart. For this is the prize.
remains the rare masterpiece that . Complement this particular fragment with, then revisit to Morrison on , , , and the little-known, lovely she wrote with her son.