Reflections After Watching A Dissection and Anatomy Lesson on Television
I just watched Dr Hagen’s ‘Anatomy for beginners’, the first televised human dissection.
It was astounding as a spectacle: the nude man and artist painting muscles on his body, the presenter, Dr Hagen and his assistant doing the dissection, the interested multi-national audience, the detailed explanations and demonstrations of mechanisms.
But on another level I watched it as a mindfulness of decay exercise, as recommended by the Buddha. I even cooked some cream of chicken soup into a thin broth and ate it in the last few minutes, as a contrasting mindfulness of growth and life.
Basically there was a visceral disturbance when the skull, brain, and spinal chord was dissected, and I had to leave the room, so soup it was! I went outside too and watched the cat Shakti. I watched her body. I inventoried her spine, brain, heart, stomach, digestive tract, liver, pancreas, bones, muscles, tendons. Anything but focus on that dissected nervous system inside the house on the television!
And yet where is the self in all that meat? One cannot find it. No knife can cut it, and no fire can burn it.
Nor can one find the sense of self in the genome, nor will we find it in the proteome or epigenetic factors. We find and will find scientific command of nature to a limited degree, but where is the ‘I’? The brain does not hold it.
I see this clearly as I look at Shakti the cat and see that the I-ness of her to which I am befriended does not occur in physical space at all! Rather, the sense of meaning occurs in an entirely different sense or order of reality, not even a somewhere, although one may make metaphor of it by using ideas of physical space. The whole thing, my friend Shakti, my self, my friendship, and the factors of our love for one another, exists on a nonphysical and nonmanifest level. One cannot apply verb or noun to it even; it is a simple, unadorned unity of direct knowingness.
The horror I felt at seeing the brain and spinal column dissected shows me that I consider the I to inhere to these things. It shows the degree of attachment to those factors which these things (brain and spine) manifest: movement, motion, thought, and so on. I hear, learn, ponder, understand, and have faith that the I is free of any taint. But the experience is of attachment to this brain (and here the I seems to be stuck!) and this spinal cord (and here the sense of motion arises.
The ‘I’ these is brainless, motionless, one may presume. What is that which I am which has no concept or motion? What is silent and still and still self? A great mystery!