Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Look ye also



   I suppose it was only a matter of time before I had to think about death. Two years ago I visited two medical museums and was profoundly affected by the emotion stored within them. I still think of all those people in jars and I want to sing them all home.
   It was on holiday recently that I found the story of Joan Wytte and the story of her remains and how they were only recently interred after being kept for decades in a museum. Europeans have strange habits, we collect everything and put it in museums for educational purposes.We look but we don't see, we inter information but don't touch it. All the evidence of life is carefully documented, a brief flash in the universe whereas death is eternal, is it a way of thanking the dead?
   By looking and feeling we can learn what we didn't know there was to learn.I have watched two operations recently that didn't go well and for very different reasons.One was a scene of heroic endeavour to save someone, successfully, and the other was unexpectedly doomed from the start. I saw one life go to the edge and I saw another given its' sell by date. I found myself at scenes of true drama,quiet and intense and unknowable.The liminal space between life and death was palpable in both cases but after one there was relief at a life saved and the other the abject sorrow of helplessness in the face of the insurmountable. I heard medical staff saying sorry to the patient even though they were under anaesthesia.
   It is often at these moments that we learn what our purpose is, when we look we must feel.
The writer Denys Watkins-Pritchard (BB) found an inscription on a gravestone which says,

The wonder of the world,
the beauty and the power,
the shapes of things,
their colours lights and shades:
these I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.

illustration by Denys Watkins-Pritchard (BB)

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