MOCKING THE DEAD
One of a suite of blog entries about the aftermath of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, including brain damage and eyesight damage; a survivor's account of the aftermath of cns lymphoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the large B-cell variety, in the author's case cancer of the brain and the spinal cord.
THIS IS A PICTURE OF YOUR GOD:
A HUGH COOK READER.
The funniest thing I saw over the Christmas period was a five-year-old kid, who I'll call Winston, playing with a desecrated body. You may not find this particularly amusing, certainly not if there are a lot of desecrated bodies in various states of decomposition stacked up in your neighborhood right now, but my sense of humor is what it is, and this sight gave me a life.
Desecrated bodies became an issue in Winston's young life some months ago, back in 2005, when the kids at his elementary school (or, as we say here in New Zealand, primary school) were taught to sing a song about desecrating a body.
Terrible things happen to this body. It gets subjected to obscene neurosurgery, with the brain being dragged out through the nose.
Apparently all the kids, ages five and up, fully understand that this is a very, very rude song, so, kids being what they are, they rejoice in singing it.
Winston's mother, who I'll call Angelica, says that if the body in question was the body of a Maori person that is to say, the body of a member of New Zealand's indigenous population then everyone would realize how dreadfully inappropriate it is to sing joyfully about doing disgusting things to this body.
But it's not a Maori body. If it was, nobody in New Zealand would be able to get away with singing this song about it. Certainly not at a state-run school, which is the kind of school which Winston is attending.
This body belongs to a minority group which isn't going to bomb us, shoot us or sue us for the simple reason that they're all dead. They don't have any political clout and they can't make waves.
So, being who we are and what we are, we exploit their helplessness by organizing it so they get mocked by our school kids, who are encouraged by their teachers to sing a kind of carnival song about the desecration of a body.
We take the solemnities of another culture and degrade them to the status of a dinner table cracker joke. And, in consequence, it may be that one day aliens with deathrays and with more advanced views of political correctness than ours will annihilate our cities in an act of judicious retribution.
Winston was not troubled at having to join the joyful singing about the desecrated body. He is, after all, five years of age, and the more you learn about the intellectual processes of five-year-olds the gladder you are that they're not running the world.
However, Winston was puzzled about the question of the identity of this desecrated body. This mummy, is that the same as his mummy and daddy mummy? Or something different?
Angelica took her best shot at explaining it, but the level of abstraction required for comprehension is really a few steps beyond what you're capable of when you're only five.
To really understand, you have to get into notions of resurrection and life after death, and so ...
And so, in the end, Angelica took her son to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which has a good selection of traditional museum stuff, including a mummy in a casket.
And the experience of seeing the real thing, the concrete object, the mummy sitting there behind glass, its brains long since used for someone's garlic stew (or something one hopes the brains didn't simply go to waste) resolved the confusion in Winston's mind.
No, that's definitely not his mummy and daddy mummy.
Anyway, during the Christmas period, I happened to drop by at Angelica's place, gathering there with a bunch of other people, and, while I was there, I saw Winston playing with what I thought, at first, was a normal book.
Then, from this book, he started unfolding something.
It unfolded and unfolded, until it was human length. Not my length, but certainly longer than Winston. It was, in fact, about the same size as the actual physical object that Winston had seen in the museum.
And that (this is the way I'm wired) I found intensely amusing.
On the subject of brains being hauled out of the skull, I have now been privileged to receive into my hands an account, written by an expert, of the brain surgery which I underwent early in 2005.
What was dragged out was not the brains, but a tumor, described as being "rubbery", which was extracted not through the nose but through an X-shaped incision made in the dura, the tough outer lining of the brain.
I was interested to get these details, and I've added them my website as a kind of supplement to the text of the CANCER PATIENT medical memoir.
The next passage gives the neurosurgery details.