january 7, 2020—body worlds

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from Body Worlds exhibit, St. Paul, MN

So, a couple of days ago, I posed a question about various health conditions others here are experiencing currently, and to track these things over the course of the 30 day experiment, then check in at the end with any changes that may or may not have happened. So many people responded, many of whom said they’d been AF in the past and their condition improved but returned when they went back to drinking, and many fascinating variations on the theme, and I really appreciated the feedback, and look forward to what people discover at the end of this experiment.

Which leads me to this: I went to the Science Museum in St. Paul yesterday, for the final day of the Body Worlds exhibit (which I had been meaning to get to weeks ago, but y’know. Hangovers and other shit kinda got in the way). By profession, I’m a restorative exercise specialist and Pilates teacher, and overall, all-around anatomy geek—yep, I’m well-aware that cognitive dissonance is alive and well in this body, thank you very much, but that’s not what this post is about. Or IS it…stay with me kids…

If you’ve never seen a Body Worlds exhibit, it’s remarkable (or repulsive, perhaps, depending on your POV… and if it ever comes to a city near you, I highly recommend it. Donated bodies (deceased, of course are preserved by a process called plastination, where fluids and fats are replaced with a plastic substance and all the parts essentially remain completely intact, without smell or decay, for ever and ever, amen. The bodies, with skin removed, display various muscles, bones, etc., are often posed in action—a gymnast or javelin thrower, for example; there are also organs and other body parts separated and displayed in small display cases, for closer observation. It’s mesmerizing, I can’t get enough of this divine design that is our body—nothing is random, nothing is happenstance…(and yes, I’m simultaneously typing all this and ssssshhhing the voices in my head right now saying “oh yeah? then why do you ingest poison on a regular basis…” staaahhhp.)

This particular exhibit had a health and death theme to it—while some of the specimens were healthy (for comparison’s sake), most showed a wide array of ailments: hip and knee replacements, cancerous tumors, herniated discs, heart disease, dementia, etc. I was going mainly, because of my aforementioned fascination with the human body, but also because, since starting this experiment, I wanted to see if anything was mentioned about alcohol use.

Long story short (or long story longer, as some of you know how I can ramble…, there was an entire room devoted to the advert effects of smoking—whole plastinated bodies on display, showing the damage of smoking had done to various organs and systems. Lungs were the star of this room, in progressive degraded stages, next to plump, healthy tissue samples, but various cancers, enlarged hearts, other organ degradations had strong supporting roles. The room was packed, people were taking their time, reading the placards, studying the bodies and systems ravaged by smoking-related disease. I heard many people saying in hushed voices things like, “we should bring dad here,” or “Oh my god, this must be what grandma’s lungs look like…”

By comparison, as I suspected, around the corner, kind of in a hodgepodge of other diseases/body parts, in a single display case, were a couple of whole livers—one healthy, one fatty, and one cirrhotic, with just a few lines about each condition being caused by alcohol. Like an afterthought.

So fascinating the exhibit was, I wandered the place for two and a half hours, almost oblivious that I was also drowning in a deluge of kids on their last day of holiday vaycay. I was struck by a thought, based on my own anecdotal evidence and evidence offered by the various members who had responded to my question about their various health conditions a few days ago: I’d love, love, LOVE Body Worlds devote an entire room—just as they did for smoking—several bodies and multiple organs in various stages of degradation, telling the real story of the adverse physical effects of alcohol. Y’know, because knowledge, not cognitive dissonance, is power.

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