Marginalia, no.305

Preparation for burial in the seventeenth century began by cutting open the chest for the removal of internal organs. The cranium was also sawed open, and once it was embalmed, Kircher’s brain, the source of all his ideas and all his trouble, was packed in a barrel with his intestines, eyes, tongue, lungs, liver, and other organs. His heart was set aside.

~ John Glassie, A Man of Misconceptions

Heart disease is an unhappy tradition in my family. Its treatment inevitably involves something like vivisection: an application of scalpel and bone saw to open the chest, the rough handling of internal organs, etc. Rather than being set aside, however, the heart (source of all our trouble) is stopped, patched up, and set again on its bewildered way with a jolt of electricity. To judge by family precedent, it will be my turn in about ten years.


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