Miracles

Belief in miracles is central to the mission of Humaginarium.

According to Merriam-Webster, the spiritual meaning of miracle is an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. A miracle may also be a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law. Can the miraculous, when candidly understood, really have anything to do with modern biomedicine?

Well, from the perspective of Humaginarium, the answer is yes. I am long known for saying (every time I get the chance) that “your body is a miracle.” No matter how young or old, how well or sick, how strong or weak, how happy or sad, how beautiful or ugly; our bodies are miraculous!

Oddly though, my claim has never been challenged. It’s odd because Humaginarium is scientific, technical. It leverages high-fidelity simulation of human physiology and biochemistry. Can miracles occur and be expressed in an environment like this? I say they can; moreover they must.

Belief in miracles is central to the mission of Humaginarium. You don’t have to believe in them when you first come to play; you don’t even have to believe when you tour homeostasis in the Arcade. However by the time you cut a path through the Morbid Frontier and killed or captured disease that haunted and persecuted you, you will gladly believe. And belief may change your life.

With miracles, am I referring to fantasy that overlays biology in our scientific entertainment? Are the miracles I speak of just figments of the imagination? They are not. They are tangible, objective and real. Rather than argue this point logically, I prefer to cite two authorities who come at it from different experiential perspectives: one a physician, the other a patient.

The physician is Sherwin B. Nuland (1930-2014), an eminent surgeon at Yale who wrote several books and articles about practicing medicine. In The Wisdom of the Body (1997) he reflected:

Centuries ago, when little was known of science, the mystery of the body’s internal machinery enthralled ordinary people and tantalized the educated. It seemed a miracle, this bustling edifice of thought and action – beyond the capacity of mere mortals to comprehend, and yet providing here and there a hint that the inscrutable might somehow be understood if only properly directed efforts were made. In time, the right direction was indeed found and the efforts were rewarded, yet the tantalizing and the mystery not only did not lessen; they actually grew. The more became known, the more miraculous seemed the intricacies of the whole and the more urgent the drive to expand our knowledge.

The patient is William Ernest Henley (1849-1903). At age 12 Henley was diagnosed with tubercular arthritis that eventually forced the amputation of a leg just below the knee; the other foot was saved only through a radical surgery. As Henley healed in the infirmary, he began to write poems, including Invictus (1875). This famously inspiring poem seems to be about many things, but in fact it is about one thing: a debilitating chronic illness that eventually killed him:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

The soul that Henley celebrated is the miracle that Nuland found in his practice of medicine. It is the courage that users unleash in themselves as they explore Humaginarium. Miraculous because science can’t explain it; unconquerable because medicine doesn’t eclipse it; courageous because it is the unfettered expression of the human spirit in our mortal, phenomenal bodies.

Scientific entertainment. Prometheus Creating Man in Clay (1845), by Constantin Hansen. Pictured with a swarm of microbes and viruses like those that swarm our bodies.