It is my unpopular opinion that when it comes to the human body, we foolish ignorant commoners are on a need-to-know basis. As we can learn from Charlie Harper, it is a good idea to not skip out on our Grade 8 Health class. But besides that? Who cares. Sure, some of us will become LPNs, RNs, medics, doctors, and dentists. But this will forever be the minority of the population. Most of us will work in sales and just won't need to know about the goings-ons of the many bodily functions. We don't really need to know what part goes where, or how long or short some things are, or what kinds of things are generated or processed in different compartments of the body. I can say this now because I have been mostly healthy for all of my life, and therefore cannot easily empathize with the many people that have gone through some form of ailment or another. Even so. If I had been diagnosed with morbid obesity, for example, I could benefit from simply taking my doctor's advice to start leading a healthier lifestyle, without having to go to BodyWorlds to see what slices of human fat looks like around the muscle and nervous systems.
Today's kids grow fast enough as it is. They want to be all grown up and be independent, free from parental oppression. They want to be exposed to as much and as often as possible so that they can get a feel for what may or may not be good for them. This includes exposure to and comprehension of the human body. But there is a fundamental lack of understanding for these children who don't see this artwork as a previous functioning contributing human member of society. There is that definite disconnect. But it is the adults (teachers - since it will be mostly schools who will be taking hoards of immature groups of teenagers, and younger, to experience the BodyWorlds, without direct parental guidance) that will teach that free will has allowed these individuals to give up their bodies to art/science (I don't know which it is) just as they may do so for medical research. These two things are not the same. Sure, the soul may leave the body upon death (did I mention no BodyWorld statues were formally politicians?) But that doesn't mean that the body shouldn't be prepared in a more ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust sort of way. Different cultures deal with their dead in tons of different ways - none of which include preserving the corpse for public display. So what makes Von Hagen so special?
On my 3.5 hour tour of BodyWorlds (trust me, that's thorough), I had watched scores of children randomly bump around from display case to statue to other display case, tugging on mommy's arm, saying "What's that brown spot" and "Where is that guy's nose". The majority of people were well-behaved, but after a while you begin to understand thatthis should be an at least 14A rated exhibit. I wouldn't say that there are proportionately more immature mannerless children out there who don't know how to behave in public, but rather, there is just more numbers of them as populations grow. Some degree of maturity and knowledge about life, death, and respect is required to not ruin the display for everyone else. Never was this so more obvious then when I had reached the "baby" display.
This especially delegated room was fully equipped with warning signs saying "contents within this display may be sensitive to some to view". In it, the development of a fertilized egg into a fetus into a near-term baby were displayed in glassware, ranging in sizes of a pickle jar to something that would hold a ~10 lb baby. It contained over 30 deceased and preserved human beings from a few weeks, up to thirty some weeks old, complete with a mother who had died with child prior to birth.
I didn't last in that room for very long. It was somewhat emotional.
But it was art! It was science?! I forget...But as glad I am for being able to see it, I still do not think it is necessary to be seen. Not unless you are a training medical staff, or you can prove a certain level of maturity that shows that you will in fact benefit from seeing something as ludicrous as a muscle-less gymnast hoisting himself up on the ropes.I also want to leave with you with the thought of where we might go from here, with respect to de-humanizing ourselves --- de-sensitizing us from the unnatural things in the world --- rap song after webpage after lizard-man at a time. A lot of progress made in the medical field will ask for us to hold onto our stomachs as we enter an age of stem cell harvesting and transplants. The ethical dilemmas and criticisms are numerous, but certainly we will benefit from that kind of technology! How could we not?! I remember back in 2001, we talked about the ethical debates of stem cell research, as I was such a good product of Edmonton Catholic Schools. All I really remember though, was thinking how cloning would be okay if they used it on Scarlett Johanneson. Or wait! That was David Letterman's joke just last week. But seriously. I wish I did know what was next! We all seem so ready to cave in and try anything, without sufficient benefit/cost analysis. I think maybe we should spend a little bit more time at least thinking about how we are going to re-sensitize our kids as our society seems so hell-bent on desensitizing them in so many ways, without even realizing it!
Time for dinner. Cow tongue tonight.