Explore the Unknown: A Journey Through the Human Body to Discover What Makes Us Unique
Adventures in Human Being will allow you to transform the way you view your body.
Through exploring each organ and its role in making us uniquely human, you’ll gain insight into their physiology as well as the fascinating historical ideas and mythologies that have informed our understanding of them.
You’ll also learn how to read a corpse’s face for information about that person’s life, how brain surgeons decide which parts of it can be safely removed, and why some women experience ejaculation while others don’t.
So start packing your bags, because you are ready to embark on an entirely new kind of exploration – a journey inside your own body!
The Human Face: The Most Unique Organ of Expression
In Adventures in Human Being, the author looks at the complexity of the human face and how it can provide insight into our emotional lives.
It’s thanks to the subtle interplay between our 43 facial muscles that we’re able to express a wide range of emotion.
Take for example the zygomaticus major and zygomaticus minor, responsible for curving our mouth in a smile, or the orbicularis oris which indicates love by pursing our lips.
Conversely, if an individual has pronounced depressor anguli oris muscles – associated with frowning – it can suggest a life full of sadness.
Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first to recognize how humans were capable of displaying an incredibly varied range of emotions.
Before his time, conventionally depictions of saints were serene and expressionless but with The Last Supper he showed they could be emotive too.
This incredible range of emotion is something that truly makes us human and why examining our faces can give us fascinating insights into past lived experiences.
The Placenta: An Emblem of Human Diversity and Cultural Complexity
No other human organ is so closely associated with the wide variety of customs and traditions that can be seen across cultures.
From its uses in placental eating for fertility to its presence at a formal burial ceremony, the placenta has been known to play an important role in cultural practices all around the world.
This concept of the placenta representing the diversity of human culture is something that can be seen throughout history, from ancient times until now.
It was previously viewed by some Indonesian cultures as a rubbery tentacled creature from the sea and returned to the ocean, while others viewed it as a form of connective destiny for a child to their land through burial ceremonies beneath sacred trees.
Modern day views on placental preservation are even bringing us back around to creating lifelong bonds between people and their placentas – indicating just how deeply it has become connected to our lives and cultures.
In these cases, stem cells are being collected from the placenta which could later be grown into bone marrow if needed – meaning you never have to rely on a stranger for a transplant should disease arise in later life.
It is no surprise then why the traditional belief of this enigmatic bag of jelly carries such depth and meaning across cultures – considering that it represents something greater than itself: The sheer diversity of human culture itself.
The Brain is Amazingly Resilient and Adaptable
When the author was 19, he held his first human brain in his hands.
It was cold, gray, and solid – a reminder of the complex world contained within it.
Years later, after becoming a neurosurgeon, he encountered a patient with severe, intractable epilepsy.
This woman was willing to risk her life by undergoing an operation where the neurophysiologists had determined the seizures originated.
During the surgery, they lowered her dose of anesthetic and woke her up.
A speech therapist prompted her to name pictures on flashcards and explain what they were for; at the same time as this was occurring, the surgeon tested different parts of her brain using nerve stimulator to determine which areas were eloquent regions that allowed her to speak in response (and which areas weren’t).
To his amazement, when she returned for follow-up checkups two days later she was not only seizure-free but also back to normal without any indication or negative side effects from having parts of her brain removed.
This demonstrated how resilient and adaptable our brains can be – allowing us to recover even when large sections are taken away – something we generally underestimate!
The Symbolism of the Heartbeat and Its Impact on Human Health and Well-Being
Throughout Adventures in Human Being, the author examines the importance of the beating heart and its pulse both for physical health and a sense of personal wellbeing.
Thanks to advances in modern technology, artificial hearts have been designed with a smooth and continuous flow of oxygenated blood that lacks the pulsing beat of a normal healthy heart.
This raises the question: If we lose our pulse, will we lose something of our humanity too? After all, when some medical patients are subjected to bypass surgery and their hearts temporarily stopped before being replaced by an artificial one, they report odd symptoms such as sudden bursts of anger or inappropriate behavior post-surgery.
This has been coined “pump head” by medical professionals.
While it is unclear what causes it, several studies suggest that the delicate capillaries and cells of our body function best with a rhythmic pulse, meaning that the symbolism of vitality associated with a beating heart also has physiological benefits for physical health.
Thus, we can see why the author was so passionate about preserving the humbling reminder of life’s beating heart and its significance in human wellbeing.
The Power of Orgasm: Our Genitals Represent Human Sexual Pleasure and Desire
The human body’s ability to experience sexual pleasure is one of its most powerful drives.
Our genitals are the physical embodiment of that pleasure, and they provide us with intense sensations and emotions that words cannot describe.
No matter who we are or where we come from, our genitals represent human sexual desire and pleasure.
The orgasm is one of the most beloved abilities our bodies possess when it comes to experiencing pleasure.
The mechanics behind it remain somewhat a mystery to many of us, but when understood, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
An orgasm occurs due to electrical tension between nerves in the genitals and those located in the pelvis area; when this tension reaches a certain level, waves ripple through the nerves like chain lightning and you’ll experience what is called an orgasm!
It’s important to note that female orgasms aren’t required for conception, although they do help aid fertilization; nerve stimulation causes fluid to be released from Skene’s Glands directly into the vagina or through the urethra which neutalizes its acidity- making it a better environment for sperm survival.
This further proves that human pleasurable experiences are not tied solely to reproduction – we pursue them for their own sake as well!
The Symbolism of the Kidney: Understanding Transplantation as an Act of Unconditional Love and Kindness
As a travelling physician, the author of “Adventures in Human Being” was often inspired by traditional beliefs about the body and its organs.
The kidney was no exception.
In Tibetan medicine, trouble with the kidneys is often linked to a “cold kidney” and can be treated by avoiding wet seats and burning herbs over the skin.
However, this doesn’t line up with modern medical treatments for kidney diseases such as transplantation – adding even more mystery to it.
After witnessing his first transplant, the author saw for himself how truly miraculous it can be – transforming a cold, withered organ into an alive, lucent one as soon as blood began to circulate freely through it.
But at what cost? Transplantation usually happens after tragedy has struck – when an organ donor passes away and their remaining organs can be used to help somebody else live on.
The author recalls one heartbreaking case in particular: a teenage girl who died from an asthma attack – but not before her parents generously allowed doctors to use her body in any way they could to help other people.
And so they did – giving sight back to someone blinded through her corneas; giving life back to another through her liver; helping yet another person through her pancreas and small intestine; with only her organs donated, besides her heart, lungs and brain being buried along with her corpse.
The Human Foot: The Unappreciated Hero Behind Our Humanity
We have heard the story of how humans evolved to become the intelligent, tool-using creatures we now are.
Now, it has been discovered that our evolutionary journey began with bipedal movement—when we first learned to walk on two feet.
This discovery was made in 1978 by paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who discovered a 3.5 million year old set of footprints that belonged to one of our ancestors— Australopithecus afarensis.
These evidence prove that it was actually not brain development that preceded bipedal movement as previously thought, but the other way around.
Once free from four legs and able to use both hands for tools, this spurred human brain development!
This story is emblematic of true human evolution and proves that the foot was the most uniquely human organ which aided in this journey–it truly deserves a standing ovation!
The Adventures in Human Being book provides a comprehensive look at several organs in our bodies and how they make us who we are.
From the brain – a unique organ that distinguishes us from other species – to the face, heart, placenta and kidney – organs that represent life, culture, and love respectively – to the foot, which is vital for our own human progress – each of these organs play an integral part in making up the whole of humanity.
The key message from this book can be summarised, then: We are all united by our shared organ systems, regardless of background or experience.