We Got the Beat

In his new book The Anatomy of Violence, Adrian Raine discusses the relationship between physiology and behavior.

It turns out that people with a very low resting heart rate are actually the most fearless among us.

Sometimes the absence of apprehension can lead to extraordinary acts of bravery.  The specialists who diffuse explosive devices in war zones tend to have unusually lethargic heart rates.  Obviously this is a job requiring superior cool, calm, and collectedness.

But sometimes a lack of trepidation can lead to heinous acts of violence.  Ted Kaczynski, aka “The Unabomber”, ticks in at a modest 54.  Guess a person would have to be pretty composed to get away with a serial bombing campaign for almost twenty years.

At my recent EKG, I scored a 49, well below the normal range of 60-100 thumps per minute.  Seems my heart rate is the only thing about me that could possibly be construed as “athletic”.

Anyway, the theory goes that we slow beaters need an extra large dose of excitement just to feel normal.  This explains a lot about my makeup.  I have frequently said that if I don’t feel my heart race every day, I simply do not feel alive.

The crave wants satisfaction.  The heart wants to hammer.  But what to do?  No excess of exercise will nudge the needle.  No overdose of caffeine will prime the pump.

Even an out-of-this-world experience is not guaranteed to make the heart take flight.  His cardiac monitor showed that Neil Armstrong’s sinus rhythm did not rocket the moment he set foot on the moon.  How can those of us confined to life on earth expect to top that kind of adventure?

These are desperate days.  Even so, I am not inclined to seek the dangerous sort of thrill.  Fortunately, the stimulant that works best for me doesn’t cost a dime, is completely legal except maybe in some of the Red States, and is even a mitzvah when practiced on Shabbes.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

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