Inside the Dying Body

Sunday evening marked the premier of a much heralded National Geographic Channel program entitled, Inside the Living Body.We are all familiar with this type of photo-documentary. There have been many similar productions since 1965, when Life Magazine published Lennart Nilsson’s photograph of a living human embryo.We are accustomed to the reverential tone accompanying the presentation of these images. Indeed there is something quite miraculous and awesome about extreme close-up views of our bodies – simply because of the utter alienation we experience regarding our mysterious innerness.Because we live in an age when technology gives access to real yet incredible realms, we are acculturated to experience and express awe and amazement when confronted with such scenes.This means that producers of such shows simply have to deliver the extraordinary imagery – with appropriate accompanying text – and we are automatically moved to respond accordingly. The problem with all this is our ability to think critically about what we are being shown is bypassed in favor of purely emotional responses.Inside the Living Body demonstrates that it takes more than a simple sequence of images to edify us. Presentations lacking qualities such as a sense of meaning, importance, inspired presentation, and appropriate narrative are merely bunches of words and pictures.Even worse, the messages delivered by “Inside the Living Body” reflect a purely materialistic view of life, a vapid adoration of youth, palpably mean-spirited ageism, and an atheistic sense of existential desperation.The show ultimately presents one point of view: birth is the beginning of death. Along the way we are told that youth, the biological imperative, and the continuance of the species constitute the whole of life’s meaning. And so naturally, the process of aging is depicted as the mere dissolution and material breakdown of the human body. No mention is made for example, of the gradual improvement of life experience as a result of processes of maturation and aging. In fact there is no indication our processes of thinking, creativity, inspiration, or any other higher faculties count for very much at all. The implicit messages here are meaningless : we are simply physical, chemical, and electrical entities and our inner selves are nothing more than plumbing.Although presented as an experience of the miracle of life, National Geographic Channel’s Inside the Living Body is DOA.*Images: National Geographic Channel

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