I all but forget I have a body sometimes, and even though I inhabit it 24/7, it’s mostly a mystery to me. I know some crude anatomy, but mostly it comprises a vague model of “stuff that’s in there.” My grandfather, a plastic surgeon, used to dazzle me as a child with the long, strange sounding names of my inner parts, but I don’t think I could ever imagine his relationship with human anatomy until today. There’s something about seeing a real human body that makes abstract anatomy suddenly concrete, and the fact that my own body contains the same organs and organisms working away becomes a visceral awareness.
The real human bodies on display here at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have been preserved by a novel process called plastination that replaces all the water in a body with plastic. The developer of the process, Dr. Gunter von Hagens, has applied it to the bodies of persons who donated their remains for educational display. The artistry and detail of the exhibits is nothing short of astounding.
After seeing this I feel like I’ve taken an important step towards being a good caretaker of a human body, and the things I do to look after my body’s health have taken on a new significance. It’s not a drastic change in habits or behavior, but a change in perspective that I hope will stick with me as long as I have a body to care for.