Monday, January 29, 2007

The Body Perfect

I was feeling pretty good after a four mile run on the treadmill. Tired, covered in sweat, yes; but still pretty happy and looking forward to hitting the pool for a couple laps. I sat in front of my locker and pulled off my shoes and was surprised to the see the toe of my right sock was soaked in blood. Shock and awe were my first emotions; that I could apparently lose that much blood and not even know that something was wrong was a little puzzling. I pulled of the sock gingerly, still not knowing what I would find underneath it. I looked at my toes, inspecting each one looking for the source of my blood, eventually; I found a popped blister on the underside of my middle toe. As soon as I saw the little sore it started to hurt. Amazing.

I’m always amazed by the brain and our nervous system. I had run 4 miles and not felt a thing, but now, sitting, my foot was throbbing. What ever nerve that was responsible for sending messages to my brain had been ignored until my eyes, seeing the sore, alerted my brain to go find that signal and pay attention to it as it might be important. Pain, truly is relative. Pain doesn’t exist until our brain recognizes it, but once recognized, it’s difficult to get the brain to move on to something else. What an interesting machine we occupy.

A few weeks ago I took my brother to see the Bodies exhibit. It’s a roving show that has plasticized cadavers, bodies skinned so that you can see the muscles, organs, and other internal structures, and then posed so you can see the human body in work. It was an interesting show. At first it feels strange to be examining the bodies of long dead people in such an exhibitionist format, as if it were the definition of irreverence, but then you are over-taken with a sense of awe at how we are, each of use, put together. One of the most amazing displays were a nearly perfect dissection of the CNS, they had taken the spine and all the nerves from a body, keeping the nerves mostly whole. The result was a beautiful white tree, in a vague shape of a human body. It is amazing to think that one of those spindly threadlike nerves down at my toe was sending a electro-chemical signal all the way up to the spine and then to the brain were the signal was converted into a pain signal I could act on. Such a complex system capable of such complex work, no computer can even come close to this type of sophistication and complexity. Amazing.

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