Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bodies and Souls

It's eleven o'clock. Do you know where your spleen is?
I went to see the traveling exhibit 'Bodies' this past weekend with Jess and Bobby. Not only did I discover what my spleen looked like, but I discovered several items inside my body that I did not know I had. One, the jejunum, which is apparently part of my intestine. Two, a tissue-papery wall covering my stomach and internal organ area. There were some squeamish moments for me, especially in seeing an entire human skin spread out on a table, and then seeing diseased organs (this is your lung after smoking for years...this is your kidney on crack!) but overall, I was more inquisitive than grossed out. I thought I would be affected by seeing fetuses in various weeks of development (all were miscarried) but I was curious as to the growth of a baby inside of a person as the weeks progress. But overall, the exhibit was thoughtful and many things were even quite beautiful, like the circulatory displays of arteries, which were dramatically lit and bright red, down to the tiniest gossamer capillaries.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding this exhibit, especially in the lack of documentation of exactly who these people are. All of the organs and bodies are real people, preserved through a polymer process called 'plastination', developed in the 1970's. I kept having to remind myself that was I was seeing was not fake: it's a real spinal chord and ribs in which everything else on the body has been removed, and a real baby, and a real brain. This leads me to unanswered questions about huge issues: being healthy, self-awareness, sexuality, death, and the necessity for the preservation of our bodies if we do not need them when we're done with them. It also speaks of the resilience of our bodies, and how dynamic our insides are! I also thought, 'this is going to make me a hypochondriac'. One little bruise and I'll start to feel bad for my capillaries having to do so much work. It also reminds me of the Renaissance, when 'science' and 'religion' were less separate- my brain conjures images of dark mysterious findings in secret basement meetings, where little was known about how our bodies looked on the inside. If only da Vinci could see this show.
I seriously didn't plan this on purpose, but after we went to check out or bodies, we checked into our souls with a Service of Lessons and Carols. What an appropriate combo! It wasn't the most spectacular-filled event, but it got us into the Christmas spirit with candlelit readings and choir hymns, and afterward, there was a huge candlelit reception with loads of baked goods (naturally, I think the key to a good church is in its baked goods). I try and attend a Lessons and Carols service every year; not only does the event have good music, and great ambiance, it gives me a sense of community, no matter what faith I belong to. It's also refreshing to hear non-tacky 'holiday' music after listening to so much Christmas Crap on the radio. Added bonuses: 1. seeing two organists switch off mid-phrase, as one just scooted off the bench and began to conduct, while the other didn't even miss a note; 2. the choir director there is letting me write a piece for his bell choir. And 3. the crumb cake was heavenly, as were several other pieces of cake which I sampled from the baked goods. My stomach certainly had no complaints.

Cake courtesy of


Mark said...

The crumb top looks a little like a brain, don't you think?

Midnight said...

Inside the cake hides a beautiful medulla oblongata!

jess said...

brain cake:

brain jello cake--more accurate but far less tasty-looking: