Thoughts on Racism and God from my Trip to the Cadaver Lab

Many years ago a friend who was at Stony Brook University invited me to his cadaver lab. As any sane person would, I readily accepted. I mean, who wouldn't want to see that?!? I knew it wasn't going to be fun, but it certainly would be a learning experience.

As I walked in I was overcome by emotions...and by the smell. After I recovered from vomiting and nearly passing out, my observation could begin.

As I stood in awe of the human body, in various stages of dissection, I had, momentarily profound thoughts on two very different subjects: Racism and God.

With very insincere apologies to all the racists out there, racism just made no sense. Here were twenty human beings. I stared at them for nearly an hour. I thought about what their lives must have been like, what they all were doing exactly one year before. One of the students, when noticing my inspection of his cadaver, started reciting the cadaver's history. "African-American, male, 46 years old..."

You see, I had stopped listening after the first few words. I had just realized that, despite have stared at him for twenty minutes, I had no idea this man was black. His skin was gone. I couldn't tell if he was black, brown, white or whatever, I could only understand that he once had been human. Maybe we should send all those who vehemently hate another race to a cadaver lab and let them pick up the people they hate so much. Like a racist Pepsi challenge.

The next thought I had was not as...well forgive the pun, but black and white. The next issue was God.

Staring at this lumps of muscle, organs, nerves and fibers, God seemed very distant. The budding doctors in the room took great pride in explaining how the body worked. "A chemical transmission between nerve synapses sends signals at lightning speed through the body and thus muscles move and it walked." A well honed machine developed over billions of years of evolution. Where was God in that equation?

However, just a few months ago this machine was a human being. This machine was loved by other and had love for others. This beautiful machine had free will and a soul. This machine, this human, just must have had a creator, or was intelligently designed, or something. There just had to be something. This hunk of tissue was, to me, God's doing.

Whatever conclusions I came to were deep and personal. They were also very powerful; that trip was about twenty years ago. So if you ever get invited to a cadaver lab, well, first make sure your friend is allowed to be there; those places are not where you want to be found uninvited! But second, go! Go anywhere that offers you a glimpse of things outside of the ordinary. Once you have learned to color inside the lines, the vast majority of learning is found by going outside the lines.