Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah.
The third week of January, 2017
Respite from the storms – cold, clear sky, sunshine – and here comes snow again!
THE MUSEUM IN THE MEAT
During the small-talk doldrums of cocktail parties, receptions, and ceremonies,
I often try to avoid boredom and put some creative energy into a conversation.
I ask someone if they ever had an influential teacher – a mentor – an educator who made a significant difference in the course of their lives.
Yes. The answer has always been positive, even if the person needs to give my question some thought. More often than not the person I’ve asked can remember a surprising range of details about their mentor – first and last name – grade level or course – dress and appearance – and aspects of the subject being taught or the method of teaching. And they usually have a fine story to share that illustrates the mentor’s importance in their lives.
I’ve also noticed that, while answering, they are looking up and away, as if gazing at a portrait or photograph invisible to me. This confirms what researchers into memory have found. When recalling a visual memory, we look up and away into some special mode of thinking where images are stored.
That place is what I think of as The Museum In The Meat.
That three pounds of living flesh and blood between my ears – my brain.
With about 86 billion nerve cells and trillions of interconnections called synapses.
Fueled by a fluid I make from what I eat and drink and breathe – blood.
Another metaphor comes from current electronic storage – The Cloud – where
almost every piece of e-data is stored and available for access.
The Museum in The Meat is the human version of The Cloud storage system.
This Museum has some unique qualities.
It is completely private and personal – never ever open to the public.
Each human brain Museum is unique – no two exactly alike.
Yet each Museum is open to its proprietor twenty-four hours a day, as long as you live, even if you don’t go inside with deliberate purpose.
The Museum In The Meat has many, many galleries – maybe an infinite number.
One, for example, the Historical Portrait gallery, contains images of people the last time you saw them, not as they are now.
Of course, the Museum In The Meat also contains images of landscapes and possessions, videos of experiences, records of smells, music, and ideas – as well as fuzzy films of times of joy, pain, and sorrow.
But at the moment, my special interest is my portrait gallery.
The Meat Museum maybe consciously, deliberately visited.
Recently, I tested this notion at night in my bed.
Just after I turned off the light, and wasn’t yet asleep.
I said aloud to myself, “I would like to visit the gallery of images of my time in
junior high school – and first look at portraits of teachers.”
I chose this stage of life – 7th and 8th grade – when I was 12 and 13 years old –
because I have no real photos in my literal scrapbook of those days gone by.
All I have is what’s in the meat.
Also because this was the time of the beginning of self-awareness – the onset of puberty – and the period when I got my driver’s license and had my own car.
(The laws of the State of Texas were different in those days.)
The point is that I had entered into young manhood, and was a Driver.
I’ll give you just one example of my deliberate museum visit.
The first portrait I came to was that of Mrs. Florence McClung – junior high teacher of Speech and English. A slender woman – sharp faced – not particularly physically attractive – but magnetic with intense energy – high standards and strong teaching skills.
More than anything, I owe to her the courage and ability to stand up in public and speak without crippling fear. She introduced me to the skills required for public debate. She cast me in a play for the first time. And she always began her critique of what I did by praising what was good.
There is another image of her – more of a brief video – of the time I saw Mrs. McClung in a grocery store with her husband and son. A classic moment, when a student realizes his teacher is a real person, with a real life and family of her own.
One who buys food and cooks and eats it at home. And not someone who spends the night at school in a closet. Wow! A vivid stunning moment. She was wearing a dark green dress and loafers.
I’ll not go on with my visit to my portrait gallery in Museum of the Meat.
Alas, you couldn’t join me or see what’s stored there – no matter how hard I tried to describe the contents, you couldn’t appreciate what’s in my museum.
My visit reminded me that I am the Curator of my Museum in the Meat.
Responsible for it – benefactor of it – and a privileged visitor.
I don’t know how long I spent on my deliberate visit, because I drifted down into sleep, and the Museum merged into vivid dreams.
And you can’t join me in my dream world, either.
I can only tell you that it was a lovely visit – and the dreams were sweet.
As I say, The Museum in my Meat is a private, personal museum, into which you cannot ever come.
There are many galleries I’ve left to visit – and I will.
You need not feel left out.
Because you have a Museum in your own Meat.
Try it – Go for a deliberate visit sometime – start with the portrait gallery – close your eyes, open the door, and see whose image hangs there.
May you be as pleased – and surprised – as I was.
And consider this: It’s likely that your image hangs in the Portrait Gallery of
other people’s Museums – because of the important part you have played in their lives.
You have an honored place in their collection of remembered faces – images of you at various ages and times. They are keepers of your history.
Coda – a final thought:
There is one small gallery in my meat that contains no objects or sounds or images.
Empty – except for some questions written on the walls.
They, too are clearly visible.
Though a few have been crossed out as no longer relevant, most have been there for a long time and are likely to remain as long as I remain.
Questions like these:
?Why is there so much Something and not just Nothing?
?Why is there Life and what is its purpose in the Universe?
?Why can’t I ever get inside another person’s brain and know what they think and feel and know and remember?
?And if I knew the answers to questions like these, would it make any difference?
Over to you . . .