Who could ask for more?
I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. It is also a fair and arguable point that my interest in human beings primarily relates to the intricacies that make up the sum total of the person and how one’s consciousness might survive physical death. Ghosts, remember? But there was just something about The Bodies Exhibition that had me fixated in a way that no haunted house has ever managed to accomplish. Perhaps it is because I usually only discuss what happens to the idea of a soul after bodily death that I was able to look at these bodies as more than just the vessels that carry the spirit.
These “bodies” are people, too.
Of course, I would have been remiss in my duties as a parent not to take my children, and so they went along. The vestibule of the exhibit contains a flat-screen TV showing bodies in all manner of activity, frozen in position, informing patrons of myriad facts about the human body. The kind of information guaranteed to keep an 11-year-old occupied for hours attempting to lick his own elbow, as well as prompting him to make the cavalierly defiant life choice to always swallow his gum.
Passing beyond that point, we met with a delightful docent named Stephanie who explained to us the process by which these cadavers become Bodies. Invented by Gunther von Hagens, the process is called Plastination and it involves replacing bodily fluids with acetone and then silicone, followed by vacuum-sealing. I am by NO means a scientist, and I have never even used a Seal-a-meal, so I defer humbly to http://www.bodiestheexhibition.com/tucson/preservation-process.html for a much clearer and more exact description of the process. It’s brilliant.
I’m fairly certain that I crept through the exhibition with my mouth hanging open, simply amazed at not only the displays, but the level of effort behind them.
Take, for example, the volleyball player. I am alive with complete control of my faculties, and I cannot dive for a volleyball like that. Look closely at the way his hands are clasped together in perfect formation, and his eyes are on the ball. Every nerve and fiber acquiescing in precise accordance with nature. It made my brain churn with thoughts of what these people must have been like in life: What was his favorite color? What was the last movie he saw before he died? He ate, he prayed, and he loved.
I suck at volleyball.
On a personal note, one of the most compelling displays was that of the lungs. Not the healthy, white specimen of lungs that I like to think resemble my own, but the craggy, blackened examples of what happens when you “just can’t quit.” Having lost my parents to the inexorable chokehold of nicotine, I was given a rare opportunity to stare at the very diseases that killed them. Not the words written on paper, but the actual disease. I stared at it the same way I stare at everything I hate – with a mixture of pity and contempt.
Of course, after seeing that, people may feel inclined to get the smoke-monkey off their backs, and so they are given that opportunity:
The Bodies Exhibition is amazing. The English language lacks the words that give proper inflection to what a fascinating and informative experience it is, and that is set aside from the fact that this may be the coolest thing to roll through Tucson since Dillinger, and possibly the last cool thing that will ever roll through, given the current political climate. That being said, The Bodies is an absolute must-see. The exhibition is scheduled for a limited 8-week run inside the Rialto theatre building, so do NOT miss it.
Let’s show these Bodies a warm welcome, and maybe we won’t miss the boat on the Titanic exhibit this fall!
(all photos by Mikal Mullaly)