Monday, December 21, 2009


Who would believe that so small a space could contain all the images of the universe? – Leonardo da Vinci, on the eye.

I was reading about the discovery of the Chauvet caves, which has wall paintings dated at about 32,000 years old, in Evolution : The Triumph of an Idea.
Chauvet's team followed a mule path through the oaks and boxtrees until they reached a cliff, and there they found a hole. The hole was barely big enough for them to stoop their way inside, and they soon found themselves in a downward-sloping passageway a few yards long. It might well have been a dead end, but among the rubble at the end of the passageway they felt a slight draft.

The three of them took turns pulling the rocks away from the passageway, lying on their stomachs, heads downward. Finally they cleared a way through, and Deschamps, the smallest of the three, wriggled her way forward 10 feet. She found that the passageway opened at its end. When she cast her flashlight ahead, the beam soared out into a giant gallery, its floor 30 feet below.
I suddenly felt nervous and my heart started racing. I felt as if I was trapped in a narrow passage, unable to see anybody or to wriggle out. The feeling was inexplicable because I had watched programmes on spelunking on TV without any problems. I think that it happened because I have become so reliant on my eyes to communicate that the thought of not being able to see anything made me nervous. Sometimes a cloth accidentally covers my eyes and I feel more helpless than a shorn Samson.

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