There’s a famous painting titled The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp, which first frightened, then fascinated me, as a boy.
Here’s the painting, from the link above:
His plastination exhibits have been popular, but controversial. The TV documentaries he’s made have been controversial, as well, since they involve dissections of human corpses done before a live audience.
The shows, however, are timely. They indicate an almost insatiable curiosity about the human body, in a sense out of a morbid sense but also as a healthy antidote to interest in the Occult or religion. A best-seller recently has been “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” (Mary Roach) which is an extremely enjoyable read. Another book I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading (if that’s the right word) is “How We Die : Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter (Vintage)” (Sherwin B. Nuland). Our culture, which does not shrink from death, and which includes visits to the dead as part of the cycle of the living, owes much to the Catholic conception of the Memento Mori as it does Asian concepts of ancestor worship or respect to the departed.
The big questions, of course, revolve around life and death; between science and faith, technology and nature. The more we know about what we can really know -the biology, the science of it all- the more we can properly determine if the things we really can’t know, spirituality, philosophy, and so on, matter to us or not.
Interesting weekend readings:
Farewell to the pandaca pygmaea.
Live from Iraq: home-made war movies.
Coming soon: webcams made obsolete.