Under the skin

Oh, narrow, dark and humid streets rising like crevices to an unforgiving sky.

I long for a Cathedral, a fine old pagan stone fortress, just for its refreshing cold atmosphere.

I would even settle for a baroque, homely, altar in a corner hole in the wall, just to squat in the corner and enjoy the delicious fridge-like interior.

Sunset does not bring relief, either in Sardinia or back home in Switzerland.

One feels like an abandoned snowball atop a sunlit bluff of rock.

Everyone and everything is smelly, dark, dank and sweaty.

No one scrambles.

No one exerts more than one has to.

We are trapped in our miserable bodies and bathed in misery.

Even nocturnal activities of an intimate nature seem far too strenous an effort to even contemplate.

I wade through the river of humidity and think wistfully of those with much harder conditions than mine: Starbucks barristas without A/C, salt miners, McDonald’s employees, construction workers, farmhands.

Sitting at my computer, I am shirtless, sweaty rivers drench my desk.

It’s almost too hot to write, to think.

Temperature extremes always make one consider one’s body because of the discomfort.

One notices the outward effects of temperature but what would it be like if we could see the effects on the insides of our bodies at will without machines?

Would we witness any remarkable internal differences?

Perhaps you may have heard of Gunter von Hagens the anatomist or his plastination process for preserving biological tissue specimens?

Or maybe Body Worlds, the travelling exhibition of preserved human bodies and body parts, which has been ongoing since 1995?

(You may remember this from the James Bond film, Casino Royale.)

Before Van Hagens was Sardinian anatomist Francesco Antonio Boi and his legacy, the Mostra di Cere Anatomiche di Clement Susini dell’Universita di Cagliari (the Museum of Clemente Susini Wax Anatomical Models at the University of Cagliari).

The Museum displays 23 somewhat gruesome wax models of anatomical sections made in the early 19th century by Florentine modeller Clemente Susini and purchased and brought to Cagliari by Francesco Boi.

Items include cutaways of a head and neck, showing the intricate network of nerves and blood vessels linking the brain and facial organs, and one of a pregnant woman displaying the foetus within the womb.

Boi’s justification for his wax collection was:
– parts of the human body cannot be preserved for long periods
– parts cannot be entirely demonstrated from a single point of view
– parts are hardly visible and some require the use of a microscope

Boi’s collection is more akin to Madame Tussaud than Van Hagen in that these are wax models and not actual human bodies.

As well, much like a Gray’s Anatomy book, we do not see whole bodies but rather cross sections.

Van Hagen shows whole bodies plasinated in lifelike poses and dissected to show various structures and systems of the human anatomy.

His purpose is the education of laymen about the human body, leading to better health awareness.

Boi’s purpose is also educational.

My wife, a doctor, of course, loves this kind of exhibit, but I find this sort of thing…unsettling.

Granted, education is a fine and wonderful thing, but are there limits as to what we should know and who should know it?

Religious groups, including representatives of the Catholic Church, devout Muslims and Jewish rabbis, have objected to the display of human remains, stating that it is inconsistent with reverence towards the human body.

It is hard to view a human body as a beautiful temple when viewed from the interior.

Bones, muscles and nerves are somewhat more holy when covered by flesh.

Does one really need to see a liver or a spleen?

Does this kind of thing lead us to awestruck wonder at the intricate and fragile workings of our beings or is it a brutal reminder of both our equality as humans as well as our mortality?

I see the manifestation of this never-ending heatwave upon my skin.

I am not so sure I really want to see my heart beat or my brain sweat…

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