Man Nailed to Piece of Wood

by Aravin Duraikannan (, 2002:144

My mother recently fractured her ankle and had to spend a couple days in the hospital. The hospital in question is named "St. Joseph's", and identifies itself as a Catholic hospital. Precisely what this means is not clear to me; I would be hard pressed to distinguish a Catholic hospital from a non-Catholic hospital in any significant respect.

When I visited my mother at the hospital, I noticed that on the wall of her room there was a rather obscene statuette, which I found particularly offensive given the character of the institution I was in. It was a gruesome figure of a man nailed to a piece of wood. Why was this outrageously depraved and horrendous image placed upon the wall of a place of healing?

The answer is rather complicated and sordid, and I don't care to expound upon it at present. It is enough for me to point out that were I to place upon the wall of St. Joseph's hospital an equally disturbing image (say, for the sake of example, a man impaled upon a spike, in the fashion of the preferred murder method used by Vlad Dracolya, the notorious tyrant who lived during the 15th century in what is now Romania—a person far more historically authenticated than Mr. Christ), I would quite quickly find myself locked up—whether in jail or an asylum for the mentally deranged I am unsure.

My motive would be quite irrelevant; it would be sufficient cause for my incarceration that the image was obscene, and indeed I should find no quarrel with the authorities for their action. I don't think such imagery is appropriate in any public institution, especially so one such as a hospital. It might be acceptable in a horror movie, where the intention is to frighten, and where there is some regulation and caution applied as to who is permitted to view it (though of course, even there the line between legitimate entertainment and vulgar depravity is very fine and faint).

I have great respect for all the people who do their noble work at the hospital; their compassion and benevolence is to be much lauded. My mother's injury was well treated and she was well cared for. I would contend that Medicine is the grandest achievement of civilization, one which we should all be very proud of. Contrarily, the man nailed to a piece of wood is a symbol of a terrible blight upon human history, something which we should all be ashamed of. It makes me wonder at the sanity of our society, that it so blindly juxtaposes these two things, with no heed at all to the incongruity.

Perhaps this then is the difference between a Catholic hospital and a non-Catholic hospital. In both, admirable men and women minister to the ills and hurts of their fellow humans, but a non-Catholic hospital probably wouldn't tolerate obscene imagery placed upon its walls.