Calcification of the Mind

One of the greatest things about Washington is the proximity of so many incredible (and free) museums. The frequency and wide variety of exhibitions is dazzling—as well it should be for our nation’s capital—but as always, there’s another side to the coin. One person I know said that the Smithsonian serves as the “nation’s attic,” which I loved! And, as many resplendent and impressive artifacts as it may host, there are others which present themselves in the head scratcher category.


For instance, a stop in the mineralogy section of the Museum of Natural History made me feel like I was pulling into one of those sad little state “welcome centers” you pass on the highway—you know, the ones featuring a half empty snack vending machine and the toilet paper that comes out in little squares. Really? What’s the significance of that rock behind the glass? Placing it in a diorama with a stuffed grizzly doesn’t enhance the experience.


Of course, it’s always possible that what with the fantastic special effects we see in movies these days, our expectations for real life museums may be unrealistic. The same is true if you visit the Santa Barbara Mission or its Maritime Museum. Proportionate to its population, Santa Barbara is inundated by museums, and they’re all so sad (sorry, it’s true). Walking through an old warehouse redecorated in a nautical theme hardly transports me back to the days of sea faring exploration by Juan Cabrillo. Looking at a glassed in case with a couple of frayed examples of a padre’s wardrobe or walking stick fails to ignite the fire to learn more.  I ask myself if this reaction is due to having grown up in a city with so many spectacular museums, or if others, too, feel somewhat let down by these sweetly earnest efforts to celebrate local history? Things of merit are often quite unspectacular.


Driving across the country from Santa Barbara to DC, my dad and I spent a few days in Natchez, Mississippi. Now there’s a town with something to show! Those pre-Civil War era mansions are incredible, as is their Visitor Center (although I confess the fact that it was an air conditioned refuge in July was the most attractive offering). Located with a superb view of the great river, that town knows how to market itself and its fascinating past. My point is, they’ve got the same sort of miscellaneous “attic junk” that any museum has, but they know how to tell a good story.


So, how do our lives fit in with this rumination on museums? Do we tell a good story about ourselves? Have we kept too much junk in our physical or mental attics? The elements about ourselves that we have displayed, are they displayed to good effect, or have we chosen to emphasize the more showy, less interesting bits hoping they will impress? How might you answer these questions for a parent? For a spouse? For a dear friend? Calcification can take many forms.




2 Responses to “Calcification of the Mind”

  1. helenga Says:

    Great post! You are so right about the importance of the stories we tell about ourselves. I just read an article about this in Success magazine where the author said it’s up to each of us whether we spin our stories positively or negatively. We’re the authors. 🙂

  2. helenga Says:

    I love this post! You are absolutely right about the importance of the stories we tell about ourselves. I just read an article about this in Success magazine and the author said it is up to us whether we spin our story positively or negatively. We’re the authors. 🙂

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