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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 207
Mon. Aug 6, 2012

“Shape of My Heart”
Sting

1994

“♫ I know that
diamonds mean
money for this
art/ but that’s
not the shape
of my heart ♫”


Last year was my summer of surf, rediscovering the power and beauty of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. This year my internal soundtrack has been revolving around my summer of Sting. Maybe it’s because I just turned forty and my music tastes are leaning towards the Adult Alternative songs on my iPod. Seriously, Sting reminds me of one of my other influences, his contemporary Morrissey. Both have thrived after leaving their more successful bands, Moz with The Smiths and Sting with The Police. Most of all, both have been lambasted by the press for being intelligent, outspoken British solo singing activist’s with an impeccable sense of humor and even greater gift of song. You see, I am rediscovering how important Gordon Sumner’s lyrics and music have been throughout my ever evolving rhythm called my life.

“Shape of My Heart,” from Ten Summoner’s Tales, reminds me of my last few years of undergrad at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I was just beginning to harness my poetic voice that was growing and yearning for experience to write about. I was in my late twenties still a virgin and yearning for experience with the fairer and more lovelier sex. Like I’ve written before I was drawn towards women who were attached, unattainable or uninterested. It’s a lesson that many of us have to learn, digging for love in all the wrong places. My longing to win a woman was my ultimate goal. The thing is that I was so inexperienced that after winning said woman I had no idea what to do. I had learned all my techniques from films. But movies never tell you what happens after the happy ending. The rest we have to make up on our own. And I was lousy at improvising at love and relationships, I guess that’s why I lost so much and ended up tortured poet, in my own mind, all alone with grief and desire.

Sting said, explaining the philosophy behind “Shape of my Heart.” “I think that reticence about being able to express love is probably part of me, but also the idea of the interest of life beyond winning. I’m not sure I need to win anymore. I enjoy playing the game for other reasons.”

I used to link my lack of success in love with my failure as a writer. My confidence was tied to success in both in relationships and writing. When I was creating on the page, I remember things running smoother with my love affairs. Usually the paramours I ended up with would end up resenting the one thing they loved about me, my writing. So I foolishly would forgo my writing to give them more attention. And this would be the first step towards the splintering of all my past relationships. I would fold my own hands to help my girlfriends win at their own game. Something that I needed to learn was to play my game and not give up the attention of my creative energies for any lover.

Co-written by guitarist Dominic Miller, “Shape of my Heart” is Sting’s tender lament of a contender who he plays not for victory but in each hand he searches of the meaning of life. Sting described the story behind “Shape of my Heart” when he said, “I wanted to write about a card player, a gambler who gambles not to win but to try and figure out something, to figure out some kind of mystical logic in luck, or chance, some kind of scientific, almost religious law. So this guy’s a philosopher, he’s not playing for respect and he’s not playing for money, he’s just trying to figure out the law – there has to be some logic to it. He’s a poker player so it’s not easy for him to express his emotions, in fact he doesn’t express anything, he has a mask, and it’s just one mask and it never changes. That’s good for a poker player but it’s terrible for a lover. If you are having a relationship with a guy like that the poor woman is lost, so I tried to create a little story that the guy was searching with his gambling and at the same time losing his relationship. The derivation of playing cards are actually tarot cards, and they are thousands of years old, And the suits of the cards – diamonds mean money, clubs are weapons, spades are swords and the hearts are love – and I got more involved in this thing. The shape of the heart is not the shape of the human heart so there’s a kind of conflict there between reality and fantasy.”

I grew up in a very competitive house hold, we used to battle for everything, who could eat, run, took a shower and fell asleep the fastest. That furious spirit of competition has been the fire that has kept my passion alive for years. What I learned from listening to “Shape of My Heart” was to harness that fire and focus it creatively and not on whether I or my favorite team won or lost. I used to take defeats personally. My brothers and my father is the same way. Losing is worse than death in our family. But the moment I started to realize with every passing day, the simple recognition that life is short and this may be the last match I ever see. It also made me focus my energies less on television watching and more on my craft. That realization made me appreciate the games I do watch more than the end result.

It’s no coincidence that since I started focusing less on winning and more on writing every day, my temper has subsided, I am more positive, happier and a better husband, son, brother and father to our kitties. I learned to balance my writing and my love. It is connected and my wife knows how much my writing means to me. She nourishes my craft and respects it and believes in me more than anyone else in my life. That’s why I married her. I won by loving myself and my wife along while focusing on my creative writing voice coming alive on the page.

“Shape of my Heart” may have vastly different connotations to each and every listener, Sting explained what “Shape of my Heart” means to him when he said, and “The card player in my song is more interested in the mystical aspect of luck rather than just winning money. It’s his meditation, his spirituality. Winning is not important, playing the game is. …It’s me playing a game with my career: It’s not about having hit records or Grammy nominations or making lots of money at all. It’s really about playing the creative game. It’s play – but its serious play.”

I used to think I wanted to write to become famous. The older I get fame has nothing to do with it. I don’t write for money or celebrity. I create for the self-discovering of who I was, who I am and where I am going. All are reflected on every page when I write. You know you’re doing what you love when doing it for free makes you equally happy and content. And I thought this song was just about a card player but today I discovered the journey lead me to what Sting’s “Shape of My Heart” means to me. No matter the result, I’ve already won, every day I craft on my canvas like page, I am enjoying loving my life in the art of being a creative writer. That is the Shape of my own Heart.

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