Saturday, April 7, 2012

As Outside so Inside

As television series go, House, MD (first aired on Fox in 2004) is worth a look. It stars Hugh Laurie as House, a diagnostician, in episodes that reveal the complexity of bodies—and hence of medicine—in a dramatic and vivid fashion. I watched a couple of episodes when the series first aired but found that this sort of thing simply can’t be watched when ads disrupt the narrative flow. Now the series is available on video and easily rented at our library. One feature of this series is the occasional sequences that show the inside of bodies using special effects. To get a sense of what these look like, here is a YouTube video called “Inside the Human Body” (link).

Long before all that (computers, Internet, YouTube, etc.) I got keenly interested in the physical inner world and, having studied it for some years, formed imaginary videos of my own by staring at photographs and picturing myself reduced in size enough to cling to the walls of arteries as the “traffic” flowed by. Indeed, as the years passed, I concluded that the insides of us are like the outsides—once we leave the “cell” in which we live. Our offices were on Telegraph Road for some years, one of western Detroit’s great arteries; I used to have to walk a ways on foot along this horrendous highway (to pick up my car at a nearby Honda place after servicing), and the same thought recurred always: I’m inside an artery and clinging to its wall.

Forests and mountains and rivers, great floods, earthquakes, and other natural phantasmagorias—sci-fi creatures, aliens, entities much like those that teem in coral reefs and in perpetual darkness deep beneath them open to our imaginative view; the main difference is that the outside, as it were, moves in a slower time dimension and thousands of years pass as the mountains form; everything is faster in the body.

The contemplation of such images sharpens the awareness that we are living in alien worlds, a great one and a small one, in a way lost in either. Is this the place where we belong?

Added Later: Having seen more of House, MD, I would now modify my first sentence above. The first season is rather stunning, but the series starts to slide in its second season already—where suddenly some of the characters’ character is forcibly revised and the fascinating medical issues are replaced by wondering who will sleep next with whom.

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