Have you ever made the "I know it by heart" statement? It usually means that the speaker remembers key information without having to strain to remember it.
When I think of things I know by heart, I think of rhymes I learned as a child, multiplication sums and the 23rd Psalm.
But until today, I never really thought about what it means to say, “I know it by heart.”
Yesterday I went to the Detroit Institute of Art and I was privileged to see many beautiful masterpieces. I know these pieces because I’ve seen them in books for the last 35 years. I was moved to tears by them. Why?... well I’m not sure. Partly because I was seeing work that I had loved and admired for years but partly because something happened in my heart. Something I knew in my heart that I don’t know how to transcribe into language. I knew these pieces by heart. Something stirs in my heart when I come face to face with them.
And I have to say, growing up in a Christian faith tradition, verses from the Bible have the same effect on me. I know them by heart. They are embedded there. They reside there. One in particular that comes to mind, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2
I know it by heart.
I think knowing something by heart means that information has moved from an intellectual space in the brain and has taken residence in the heart. Knowing this brings me both comfort and pause to reflect.
I don’t remember deciding to lodge Van Gogh's self portrait in my heart but it happened. My guess is that it happened because of a combination of repetition enforced by emotion. That’s usually how we remember. I want to be mindful of what I allow to take residence. I want to be mindful because what I know by heart is powerful.