Photo by Handerson Gomes, courtesy Bricolage Production Company.

What is lost when something disappears, as the dodo did just around three centuries ago?

The National Self Preservation Society wants you to be thinking about that question, on both the macro and the micro level. You can apply to be a “donor,” and if your application is accepted, you’ll be invited to enter through a secret portal of the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History after closing hours, where you will be guided on a journey through hidden spaces that will prompt you to ponder the fates not only of lost species, but of lost artists, lost languages, lost songs and poems, and lost ways of life as well.


Center: Michael McBurney, surrounded by “donors.” Photo by Handerson Gomes, courtesy Bricolage Production Company.

Indeed, you may find yourself at times musing about the eventual fate of the human race; or about how a museum of the future might represent our species; or about what evidence of our existence humanity might leave in the geological record for a future species to discover in a few billion years. You might discover yourself reflecting on what you, personally, will leave behind. You will almost certainly be caught up in childlike wonder and delight at the opportunity to explore the suddenly mysterious museum space after dark. And at some point in your journey, you will be asked to leave something behind: a donation towards the collective goal, if not of self-preservation, at least of self-memorialization.

Your experience will be different from mine, of course; each donor takes an individual journey, just as we do in life, although – as in life – we all wind up in the same place in the end. That place (and if you pay close attention to the signs you will understand that DODO refers to something other than an extinct wingless bird!) is one in which you may experience something akin to a rebirth of consciousness. It’s also a place from which you may be awakened not only to a recognition of all the ways – good and bad – humans leave their impact on world, but also to a spectacular and deeply humbling reminder that no matter what happens, the Earth’s beauty will surely outlast us.