To me, the most memorable exhibit in the entire Exploratorium, a children’s science museum in San Francisco, is the chick in egg development petri dish. The start of the life of the chicken, its heart, is pumping in the egg yoke while the whole thing sits in a petri dish, underneath the glass in an exhibition case. I didn’t have a chance to take a picture, but it literally looked like that. (Animation credit: yours truly!)
At first, I was stunned at the level of technology we have to keep life going in a foreign environment. However, I highly doubt that the chick, though heart beating and looking quite alive, would survive in the petri dish for long. Even if it is successfully “born” it wouldn’t be as healthy as a chick that comes out of an egg.
In other words, that chick’s life is doomed. I feel sad for this chick after realizing this. But is there a better fate for this chick? Nay, I say. Even if it is actually born from an egg, in an organic free range humane farm, its eventual destiny is to be consumed.
Death. Yes, the fate of all things living.
It is so huge, so inevitable and so unchangeable. I used to indulge in the imagination of my own death, a young one, and the funeral that would follow. It would be the most beautiful death of course, perhaps dying in my sleep, for some reason, without any side effects that would damage my appearance (lol). My friends and family would gather at the ceremony, the sky would weep, and there would be heated discussions on the meaning of some of my art works.
These days, however, I don’t think that any more. After re-studying Confucius’ works, I decided that one of my main goals of life is to outlive my parents. Not only will I live longer than them, I will also “serve them well while they’re alive, bury them properly when they pass away, and afterwards remember them well both in life and in ceremonies.”
Having this goal helps me put the lives of my parents, me and my potential offspring into perspective. It’s not just me and my own beautiful death any more. We are all part of the stream of human history, and natural history of the earth. Of course we all wish our family would live forever, but if my great great grandma is still alive, man, she’d be a pretty scary looking witch by now!
Death happens, so does life. One cannot exist without the other. The chick in the petri dish will die, so will I. For death, no organism’s life is more precious than others’. We all go back to the earth. This has been my main takeaway from the chick in egg “life development” exhibition in Exploratorium.