On Being Wholehearted

Stephen L. Talbott
This essay was originally published in NetFuture on December 6, 2002. Copyright 2002 The Nature Institute. All rights reserved.
Notes concerning The Dynamic Heart and Circulation, edited by Craig Holdrege, translations by Katherine Creeger (Fair Oaks CA: AWSNA, 2002).

What follows is not a broad review of the book, but rather a narrow selection of notes drawn mostly on a single theme. The book contains wide-ranging essays by five European scientists, with an introduction by my colleague at The Nature Institute, Craig Holdrege. I will refer to the text using page numbers and authors’ last names. For chapter titles and full identification of the authors, together with ordering information, see the end of this article.


Not so long ago, if I had been asked to visualize and describe the human circulatory system, my natural impulse would probably have been, first, to talk about how the blood consisted of plasma and various cells, such as red and white blood cells. Then I would have pictured a network of pipelines, larger or smaller, for transporting the blood in a complex loop throughout the body. And, of course, I would have told how the heart, with its tireless and wonderfully consistent pumping action, drives this entire, life-sustaining circulation throughout its course.

Unfortunately, my description would, in spirit and in substance, have been hopelessly misconceived. It would also have been quite respectable. Why? Because it is an essentially mechanical description, and mechanical descriptions of organisms, however misconceived, tend to get respect today. Even if we recognize their inadequacy in a particular case, we can’t help thinking they give us the “right sort” of understanding.

For now, let’s take a look at the idea that the heart is a pump, propelling the blood around the body. You can decide for yourself how well the metaphor fits the reality.

A Pound of Muscle

Here is an elaboration of the heart-pump idea by a blood specialist who appears perfectly happy with it. The description occurs