I was twenty miles north of Phoenix hiking along Cave Creek in the springtime glory of the Sonoran desert. Alone by the flowing stream, I sat awestruck by the magnificent display of Mexican gold poppies, purple lupine, and assorted orange and red flowers. I was so entranced by the breathtaking palette, the symphony of gurgling water, that I imagined myself floating away on a magic carpet of blooms.

The only distraction was a discarded plastic water bottle in front of me. With everything in the world becoming commodified and disposable, I think we will destroy this natural wonder. Looking at the plastic bottle I think about a segment on TV’s 20/20 that I watched the night before, about plasticizing people. This patented process, discovered by the German anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens, is called plastination. Von Hagens found a way to vacuum out a corpse’s fat and body fluids, and then to forcibly impregnate it with liquid plastic. His work was done entirely with volunteers who gave him permission to display them after their death. Von Hagens became famous through his globe-trotting human body exhibition, called “Body Worlds,” which displayed skinless corpses in flexible poses, exposing their musculature and internal organs.

Von Hagens plastination process has been duplicated and now there is a demand for plastic people. The 20/20 program reported that businesses are using the corpses in advertising campaigns, and production companies rent them to be filmed in commercials. These bodies by the way are not all volunteers, they are executed Chinese prisoners, bought and shipped to plastination processors.


When all living things become commodities preserved in plastic, it reduces our appreciation of the sanctity of life. Awe is the mechanism by which we open ourselves to our souls; don’t wait to buy poppies in plastic . . . go out into the desert, woods, mountains, streams and be awed by the aliveness of what’s real.