The Boss Rabbit and I went to "Bodies Revealed" at Union Station this afternoon. We reserved our place online, printed out our tickets at home and sauntered merrily into the queue. Unlike most Kansas City events, it was well-organized and reasonably easy to navigate, even considering the thundering hordes on hand. I didn't see anyone who looked like a "pro-dignity-after-death" activist, nor did I see any protest signs in evidence.
It was crowded, to be sure. I have a distinct advantage in situations like this in that I'm six-four, 270, not counting the rabbit ears. I can see overthe heads of most mortals, and the ones that take up way too much real estate receive a gentle tap on the shoulder and a kind reminder that they're not alone in the universe and get out of the fucking way. Strollers were not allowed n the exhibit area. If I believed in a god, I'd thank her for that.
The exhibit was interesting. It gains a lot more traction simply because the bodies on exhibit were once living mammals. You could certainly achieve a similar result by creating castings from two or three ex-humans and assembling multiple versions from the pieces. But where would the controversy be, then?
I was hoping to come away from Bodies Revealed with some profound statement on The Meaning of Life. I'll leave that to the philosophers and theologians. What I did come away with was a higher sense of value for the lives we all have. The more gazed at the amazing complexity of the human body, the more I realized that the evolutionary process that made us what we are today is no more amazing than the evolutionary process that has produced horses, dogs or rats. To think that the world was made with us in mind is not only simple-minded and ignorant, it's delusional. We are obviously animals, soft-shelled and vulnerable. We have a limited life-span and are able to attempt to understand our own consciousness and place within the physical realities that we inhabit.
I got the same feeling looking at the bodies and organs on display that I get out on a cold winter night, looking through the telescope, back through billions of years of time and mostly empty space....
We're not it.
Are we special? Absolutely. We've developed a brain that is capable of tremendous feats of mental strength and agility. We have opposable thumbs and have learned to make and use sophisticated tools. Our brains give us the ability to create abstractions that represent our reality and language to communicate these revelations to others.
As for those who say that Bodies Revealed disgraces the dead, is undignified and disrespectful, I say, who made you arbiter of all that's holy? We don't respect our bodies or anyone else's when they're alive, why should they suddenly be raised on lofty biers when they're dead? Americans are, on the whole, fat, lazy and stupid and oddly enough, we're seemingly proud of it.
Tell me how we honor the living day to day and then tell me how we dishonor the dead. I loved my folks dearly, but I wish my long-gone old man was plastinated, flayed and in a museum somewhere instead of turning to mulch in an expensive underground metal box in Leavenworth. Yeah, that's dignified.
Thus spake the rabbit.