For now, I treat death the same way as Woody Allen’s nervous-wreck-of-a character in Manhattan: slightly aloof with a touch of dark humor. In one classic scene, Isaac (Allen) stands next to a skeleton in a classroom, describing its life as one of the “beautiful people dancing and playing tennis.” He follows this with a healthy dose of fear: “It’s very important to have some kind of personal integrity. I’ll be hanging in a classroom one day. And I wanna make sure when I thin out that I’m…well thought of.”
As an English major, I am much like Isaac, projecting my adolescent (albeit philosophical) understanding of death onto skeletons hanging in classrooms or pictures of gods and demons in Dante’s “Inferno.” I bridge the gap between imagination and reality with novels like “Into the Wild” and its painful descriptions of what Christopher McCandless must have experienced before he starved to death in the middle-of-nowhere Alaska. The nitty-gritty, the inner-workings of bones, muscles, veins, organs and other internal human anatomy make me squeamish. An article in this issue on embalming (p.32), though written with the best of educational intentions, made my palms start to sweat and my toes curl underneath my feet—in a good way.
Come to think of it, I can’t recall an article this issue that didn’t give me the chills, where my eyes didn’t leave the page feeling like I had x-ray vision. Walking around campus, I will be on the lookout for the ghost of Lady Bemis, who reportedly still wanders Bemis hall in a long, white gown (p.18). I will question my motives for going to the gym as a part of the Colorado College exercise cult (p.52), as well as any future decision to become a marathon runner at the risk of conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles’ heel (p.29). I will think twice about disrespecting RAs who have to clean up financial damage in addition to vomit (p.48).
What the “Bones” issue does best is layer the physical with the metaphysical. On page 55, a writer weaves recent events in Nepal with sexual assault and the anatomy of breaking a bone. Another recounts the cold case of Dylan Redwine, the son of Elaine Redwine in the Financial Aid Office, whose killer was never found (p.14).
There is little certainty in life, death, and everything in-between. All we have is the structure we’ve created according to whatever code or creed we use to walk through life without tripping on the sidewalk. Like Ike, I don’t pretend to conduct myself according to a code or creed. I stand next to the skeleton, preferring to wring my hands about matters beyond my understanding and leave the door open for conversation.
Hannah Fleming and the Cipher editors