Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

Following My Heart

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I’m reading a dissertation titled, “TheStatus of Free Will in Ancient Egypt’s Old and Middle KingdomsAccording to the Instructionof Ptahhotep” by André de Campos Silva. The entire piece is actually quite interesting and moreso when I see how it applies to my faith. Right now the part I’m particularly drawn to is the concept of Sms jb (if you have noclue what I typed, here’s a link to the Manuel du Codage on wikipedia) which translates to “follow the heart”. It looks in particular at the eleventh maxim to stress this point.


The idea of following our heart is interesting to me primarily how it is translated. As noted in the dissertation Sms jb can be translated a few ways such as, “serve / use your conscience” or, “serve / use your desire”. Superficially one could easily interpret it to follow the whim until it’s noted in the dissertation that it could also be interpreted as knowing when take some time off and knowing when to work.


Following my heart takes a new meaning for me when placed in the context of leisure and work. The dissertation makes a point to emphasize this point as well. It implies that we need to take time to enjoy life as well as take the time we need to work. The same passage that mentions following one’s heart also mentions to only work enough to keep one’s affairs in order.  The idea of knowing when to work and when to idle is an interesting point to me because of how I see the world around me shaped.


I also like the idea of translating the heart to represent the conscience and the gut more of instincts, as also represented in de Campos Silva’s work. I see this concept in some sense today with idioms like “gut instinct”, though I highly doubt Ancient Egypt is the origin for these expressions.  While I disagree that our instincts are a negative trait (or at least implied as such in the dissertation) I feel focusing on both is a wonderful way to temper one’s conduct. 


Sometimes it’s important to pay attention to our basic instincts because they have passed themselves down for a reason.  When I would go out late at night on my own I used them as a tool for awareness and how to prevent danger.  It saved me from abduction by acting like I was a large animal regardless if anyone involved perceived it as such.  I also see the other side of this issue of knowing when to ignore our instincts.  Observe the behaviors at an all-you-can-eat buffet to understand what I mean.  It’s not necessary to act like one’s survival depends on gaining all of a certain food in that environment because the restaurant operates in a way to mitigate shortage.  There’s also the reaction we have to shocking news stories where our immediate response is to spread the word as a rally cry, only to find it is a hoax or exaggerated in some way.


The question then arises of how one follows their heart in the sense of what’s provided.  That boundary isn’t a simple one to answer since everyone is different.  What is effective for one isn’t effective for another.  What is effective in one moment isn’t effective in the next.  What’s effective for one environment isn’t effective in another.  I do feel that the idea of just enough is part of that guide.  Another part of that guide is knowing yourself and thus your personal limitations.  Ultimately it is upon the person to have a strong enough sense of self to determine how to follow their heart.  


One needs awareness of self and their environment to determine how to follow your feelings and your thoughts.  I also feel that thoughts and feelings aren’t to be shunned in favor of one or the other.   Without an understanding of both I feel leaves a person subject to acting without abandon or not acting at all when taken to extremes.  Awareness, I feel,  is the key to following your heart.


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