Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Biology and Ben-Hur

My first term of Anatomy & Physiology concluded about two weeks ago - and since then I've been relishing every moment of freedom I have. I am still in awe of how much information my brain absorbed during that 8-week period. We covered bones and muscles, tissues, and part of the nervous system. Even though I am ecstatic to be done, I am also excited for next term. We will be covering more of the nervous system, as well as the endocrine, cardiovascular and immune systems. What I've enjoyed learning about the most is the processes that occur - the physiology of what is happening in our bodies. Even while it is fun spouting off anatomical language with my classmates (it's true - becoming a nerd is way too easy :), I've really enjoyed learning about the chemistry behind all of the reactions that occur in and between our cells. How muscles work, how neurotransmitters work, how different types of tissues function...I won't bore my friends w/ the details but even the seemingly mundane processes our bodies regularly go through are nothing short of miraculous.

In light of my newfound freedom from classes, Ben and I have decided to start watching the "classics" - (mostly older) movies that have in some way had a dramatic impact on the world. We started this journey with the epic, "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ." Ben has seen the movie a handful of times but I'd never seen it. Boy am I glad I did! I don't even have the words to describe this film - spectacular and deeply moving, with the quintessential lead character filled by the beautifully chiseled Charlton Heston. I highly recommend it :)

The film, being the first I've seen of Charlton Heston (I know, I know, I'm absurdly naive when it comes to classic pop culture icons), made me think back on the film I saw in high school, "Bowling for Columbine." In this film, Michael Moore interviews Charlton Heston, who, at the time, was serving as president of the NRA. I watched the interview again on YouTube yesterday and was disappointed with Moore's treatment of Heston. I am also extremely intrigued by Heston's life history (of which I am just barely aware of - via wikipedia :) -
how he went from a political progressive active in the civil rights movement to a political conservative endorsing Reagan and both Bush's, and becoming a prominent defender of the Constitution's second amendment right to bear arms. The wikipedia article quotes him as saying this in response to his apparent switch in political allegiances: "I didn't change. The Democratic party changed."

Recently a member of my family publicly criticized me for my support of health care reform and Obama. I replied that I didn't think Obama was perfect, and that I suggested he watch the film, "Sicko". This same member of my family went on say that I was "brainwashed by the left,", that "all politicians are crooks," and that Obama is "nothing more than a polished turd of a used car salesman." He also cursed the maker of "Sicko" and politely referred to Obama as "Obama bin laden". This member of my family is a HUGE supporter of gun rights and refers to himself as neither liberal nor conservative, though I do remember him giving praise to Donald Rumsfeld just after we bombed Iraq.

In watching the clip yesterday from "Bowling for Columbine" I could see one small thread...an inkling, perhaps, of common ground between this family member and myself. Ultimately my ____(unnamed family member) wants to protect the innocent. He wants to get rid of the "bad guys." He probably doesn't receive his information from the traditional media because most likely it is suspected to be biased and reflecting the views of the liberal upper class. I'm not sure where his news comes from. Ultimately, much like most of us, we watch and listen to programs that in some way we trust, or believe is genuine, unbiased reporting. Of course what I think is genuine and unbiased is completely different from what other people in different corners of our country think is unbiased and genuine.

The Christ depicted in Ben-Hur speaks to so many of these underlying human problems (albeit indirectly). The camera never shows the face of Christ, only the reaction people have to him. I hate it when people say that something is "all about" something - reducing a complex issue to a nice statement. But in this one instance, it seems appropriate to say that it really is about power. The struggles facing the world are about power - who has it and who doesn't, and what the people with it are doing with it. This struggle for power (or, maybe just the freedom to exist as one chooses) is the context in which a helpless Christ dies for doing nothing wrong.

I am looking forward to the next "classic" from the library. We have close to 2 dozen on the list, so we'll be watching movies till our eyes hurt for the next few weeks :)

Friday, August 21, 2009