Saturday, October 01, 2011


In highschool I had a friend who would get rather pissed at me whenever I would wear clothes or accessories with skulls on them (yeah, this was in my emo period). I got her point, but I had a certain fascination with the human skull. At the end of highschool this fascination died a little, but since a year or so, it is back, and now that we have discussed the anatomical theatre and drew human skulls in my Art & the Subject class I became more aware of how I, myself, regard death and its related themes.

For Art & the Subject we had to read some rather upsetting articles about babies being dissected and people awaking from their hysterical death while being dissected. Our teacher "warned" us that this theme might be a little upsetting for humanities students, which I did not fully understand because I don't see the difference between dissecting a dead adult or a dead baby, and I get a kick out of seeing human skeletons, etc. [I honestly got incredibly, super-psyched when there were two artists coming to our class with 3 real human skulls that we had to draw (in the tradition of Renaissance anatomy drawings/paintings)].

1. Human skull #1, we called him Rufus (because after all, they had been real people).
2. Human skull #2: Frank.

Since that day I have been wondering: am I a cold person for not being upset by baby dissection or shudder at the sight of human bones. For the record, I am not a lover of horror movies, and don't watch them often, so that cannot be the case. There must be another reason for me being desensitized by these affairs.

I guess the only thing I can come up with is the loss of several people who were very dear to me. With 'loss' I mean people who I have grown apart with in a very painful way, but also people who died; some expectedly (grandparents), some unexpectedly. Maybe you remember the post I made almost 3 years ago about my uncle, who died all of a sudden. You can read it here. This might have been a natural death, but that does not mean that we anticipated on it. Hell, I'm sure he did not even anticipated on it!

I had a hard time dealing with his death, accepting it, letting him go; mainly because he was my favorite uncle and we were . Eventually the event of his death grows on you and you learn to deal with it and accept it, but this takes a lot of time. There are days on which it hits you again and on those moments to realize Johnny isn't here anymore it is still hard.
Thus, I have learned to deal with death the hard way: I have come across it more often than I would have wished to, but faith does not care about plans, even not about mine.

However, there is no need for self-pity, because nobody has ever climbed up a ladder with that. The above text is meant as being purely introspective, and in my opinion, it would explain my attitude towards death. I have been exposed to it, and now I have become desensitized.

Still, the question rests, does this make me a cold person? Today my chimeras were soothed. I visited the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam; a museum that is concerned with other cultures/natures than the Western culture, and I stumbled upon a display about the Mexican tradition of Días de los Muertos [Day of the Dead]. Of course, I had heard about it before[the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Art and Life in Glasgow has an amazing version of a traditional, festive skeleton doll on display!], but this reminded me of another way of dealing with death. Instead of only and exclusively mourning the dead and be afraid of it, you can serve the favorite food of your beloved deceased and celebrate the life that you live, because let's be honest: we will never escape death, nor will our loved ones, so we might as well celebrate our own and other's lives, as long as we still can.

The display in the Tropenmuseum was accompanied by the following text:
"Death revenges us against life, strips it of all its vanities and pretensions and converts it into what it really is: a few neat bones and a dreadful grimace."
Octavio Paz, the Labyrinth of Solitude, 1959.

3. Fragment of Días de los Muertos display in the Tropenmuseum.

And that is where I want to leave it at. I will continue to live now, thanksverymuch.