Saturday, 1 June 2013

The museum that reduced me to tears

Back in February, one month after I found out I had miraculously got a place at Cambridge University, my parents drove us down to the lovely town so I could see for the first time where I will eventually be living for three years of my life. In our typically unorganised way we strolled around the college campus looking rather out of place, my dad in particular as it is an all girls college. Cambridge is such a beautiful place. History seeps out of every building, overwhelming with the sense that something very important either has or is about to happen. Old, tucked away pubs, made famous by being associated with very successful people serve gorgeous food. Our favourite was The Eagle where the discoverers of DNA ("the secret of life") announced to everyone their achievement. It also sells amazing chicken and chorizo sandwiches...

Walking around this outstanding English town filled me up with hope for things to come. I watched the smartly dressed students clicking around town, carrying books and hot drinks, each one full of so much potential and remembered that that will be me. I think that's why my parents drove me there, to remind me what I've got waiting for me once these two crazy gap years are over. My dad even bought me a college scarf which is now hung in my room. I love it, but I was dismayed to find that my college colours are two shades of blue, I really dislike the colour blue.

To fill up our spare day I chose to go to the Museum of Zoology as for some sick reason I adore staring at stuffed animals. I love the way they're frozen in time, tigers with large snarls that look like they're about to jump out and eat you, but then they never age. I know it's really quite sad actually, but especially with extinct animals, I can just stand and marvel at their stuffed corpses for hours reflecting on the fact that that body used to live and run around in some ancient time and now it's here, frozen forever. This museum has a particularly amazing display of preserved insects and I got some lovely pictures, their intricate patterns amaze me.

We then went downstairs to an enormous, white room full of large skeletons haunting every corner. There was a monumental skeleton of a giant sloth that used to live thousands of years ago. It was literally breathtaking to think that creatures so huge and peculiar used to live alongside mankind. 

Everywhere you turned there was a skeletal beast, propped up as if a living thing, and so many of them were either extinct or endangered. It shocked me to see these heavy, dense bones that could easily crush me and to think that they used to belong to a living thing that, despite all it's immense power and strength, couldn't survive the inevitability of time. It couldn't survive the progression of man or climate or evolution, and all these heaving, great big animals one by one dropped dead. Already feeling quite insignificant and overwhelmed, I wandered over to the section all about the evolution of man. I've always found it fascinating reading about the progression of humanity and I did admire the display of skeletons showing the changing build of man as time went on. But then suddenly I couldn't help but notice how lanky, weak and skinny the human skeleton appeared compared to the great bulking ones of animals long gone. I said to my dad, "isn't it peculiar how that, that skinny, brittle frame, has become the dominant being out of everything in here", to which my dad replies "yes but for how long?". He then briefly mentioned how the time that mankind has been on this planet is a tiny dot on the timeline of history and how, what with global warming and wars, who knows when our time on Earth will end... My poor dad, he was just being interesting, I'm sure the last thing he wanted to do was make me burst into tears. But I couldn't help it, and the more I stared at that skinny, wobbly skeleton the more I began to hate humans and our pathetic superiority. I welled up more and more and so we went for a hot chocolate and eventually I calmed down, because I suppose if the whole of mankind is going to be wiped out there's nothing I can do about it right this moment.
The giant sloth.

My lesson learnt from this... going out to museums to learn new information and see interesting things is a great way to remind yourself that there are more important things in life than yourself and your own little bubble. However, note to self, don't think about 'the grand scheme of things and my insignificance in all of it' too much, as you might leave the museum blubbering snot into your cup of hot chocolate.

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