Saturday, August 6, 2011

Momento Mori

"It was kind of gruesome, with all the skeletons and stuff..." I was telling my mom about one of the exhibits I saw the other day on my big museum trip.

"I would think that was right up your alley," she replied, and I shrugged, but because she couldn't see me do that through the phone line, I elaborated:

"Well, there were a lot of skeletons! Even a baby and a fetus..." I trailed off, and she agreed that such things might be difficult to see.

Our conversation moved on, but I'm still thinking about that part of it. She's right, not so long ago I was fascinated by forensic science. I was one of the legion who lined Patricia Cornwell's deep pockets, anxiously awaiting the next Scarpetta novel. One of my Christmas presents in 1990 was a workshop at the Smithsonian on forensic anthropology. Back in those days, nothing was too gorey or gross for me.

Twenty years on, my tolerance for such things has definitely diminished. I suspected as much (it started with the movies-- there were just some violent scenes that I found disturbing), but I noticed it for sure a few weeks ago when Josh and I were watching a NatGeo Explorer episode about the severed feet that keep washing up in Seattle and Vancouver. As riveting as it was, the graphic footage of the Body Farm, the time-elapsed shots of an underwater pig carcass, and even scientists shopping Home Depot for the perfect amputation tool and then testing it out on a cadaver all caused me to flinch a little.


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