Last weekend, I visited the famed mummy museum here in Guanajuato with a friend. Apparently, the soil conditions here are not conducive to decomposing bodies, and thus, many well-preserved remains have been extracted, and for some reason, put on display for all to see. It was an absolutely sickening experience, eerie beyond words, yet one of the most profoundly important experiences of my life.
Once I encountered the first body, I was not scared, not disgusted, but oddly uncomfortable because I felt I was viewing something so far-removed from a human being. This is primarily due to the fact that a dead body at a funeral is made to look alive, napping peacefully as we pay our respects. However, seeing this state of decay was quite divorced from anything resembling a living human being. I was left to ponder the question: What is the main difference between the decayed mess of bones and flesh underneath the glass and the person taking pictures of it from the outside?
So for the first time, I became aware of what I consider to be the "animating spirit" which exists within all living creatures. I realized that I am carrying around the same crumpled mass of bones and flesh, yet have a real living presence within me that is allowing this mechanism to function in this world. The existence of this energy is the only thing separating me from the horrendous mess under the glass.
Yet these were all real live functioning people at one time. One was of a French doctor - his beard, fancy coat, pants, and book still intact. The spirit that inhabited his body had come and gone. All of his joys, sorrows, accomplishments, awards, failures, and sufferings were now represented by a ghostly shell. It made me really question the amount of anguish and pressure I put on myself, knowing that in the end, I will also be under that glass.
So I think the experience of the mummy museum has given me a new appreciation for life. I always intellectually knew that life is so temporary, but to see a visual reminder of it made me really feel my own impermanence. Yet at the same time, I truly experienced the precious energy or life force that so uniquely inhabits this soon-to-be crumpled pile of bones.