A friend and I went yesterday to the Human Body Exhibit, on loan from China to the United States, at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. It's a fascinating and awe-ful thing. These are actual human bodies, preserved and then partially dissected to show different bodily systems: circulatory, digestive, etc. It's impossible not to wonder who these human beings once were, what were their desires and dreams, vanished now from their intricate and public remains.
The exhibit is controversial. Some people feel that this is not a proper use of human remains, even if "donated to science" by their owners. Others object more to the "Prenatal" portion of the exhibit, which features preserved fetuses in various states of development and which in Rochester was secluded behind curtains with a sign advising parents that some children might find this upsetting. I don't share these views. The entire exhibit seemed to me to underline the miracle that is the incredibly complex homo sapiens body. Sixty thousand miles of blood vessels in an adult! That's enough to circle the equator two-and-a-half times!
I would have no objection to my own body ending up like this.
The entire experience received a surreal gloss because the Museum was also hosting a Holiday Bazaar. To emerge from the exhibit, softly lit and with flute music playing unobtrusively in the background, into a riot of glittery bibelots for sale, was passing strange. The last thing Therese and I saw in the museum was a grandmother scolding her grandson for singing a modern Christmas song: "You think it's funny that Grandma got run over by a reindeer? How would you like it if I got run over by a reindeer?!" Therese and I couldn't help it -- we collapsed into laughter, in which there was something of uneasy bafflement.