Fuel Body Pods - The Nictitating Membrane

Posted: 06/07/12

Listen to our latest podcast, The Nictitating Membrane, now.

The Nictitating Membrane has been made by writer and performer Chris Thorpe and Dr Joe Cain, Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in History and Philosophy of at UCL, whose research includes the history of evolutionary studies.

Chris writes of his podcast:

"Normally I'm pretty good at seeing the boundaries between things – keeping projects, bits of life, thoughts about the present or the future, separate. Obviously in reality these things are a glorious mess, but in my head I can just about manage to focus on one thing at a time when I need to.

When I thought of any part of my body though, that process completely broke down. I'd find myself thinking about my kidneys, my kneecaps, my eyebrows, and for some reason I just couldn't take them out of context. I'd widen the field slightly and that old song about the x-bone being connected to the y-bone would run through my mind and suddenly I was  a single organism again rather than a set of interconnected parts.

I guess that's what attracted me to the body's dead ends. The vestigial structures. The remnants. They're easy to isolate, because they live outside that dance of survival and interdependence. They just hang around, slowly evolving themselves out of the party, because we don't need them any more – they live within us, they're part of us, but they don't help us live.

Then I talked to Joe Cain – which everyone should do if they ever get the chance. And he made me realise these dead ends – the nictitating membrane, the coccyx, the shiver of goosebumps – are anything but dead. They sum us up exactly. They emerge from chaos and they go back to chaos, and they're a constant, inspiring reminder that even though you and me might only hang around for a few decades, our species will never be done with the constant process of change that stops us stagnating.

And I looked out of the window, and I thought – that's not just true of our bodies. For good or ill, it's true of everything we are, we build and we do. So that's where this Body Pod came from."