Friday, 7 August 2009

How Deep is Deep?

I'm going to be away for the next week, so please talk amongst yourselves, or visit some of the fine sites listed on the right. In case you get bored, here's something to think about:

One of the metaphors we take for granted in the discussion of the meaning of our lives is the idea of depth. We talk of deep meanings, of profundity, of inner depths. But the deepest deep I can muster in my own body (let's say, from the innermost top of my brain to somewhere down in the pelvic region) is, according to this tape measure, about 80cm. And, so far as I can tell, most of my thoughts appear to be occurring in my head which is, what, 15cm deep? So all those deep feelings and profound thoughts are not particularly deep, if you take the metaphor literally. So why is the notion of depth so important to us? Where have we all experienced this unplumbed abyss that is the imaginary validation, measure and location of our most important thoughts and feelings?

(This is a question, not a setup, by the way: I won't be bringing any answers back from Somerset and Dorset; I'm just hoping for a relaxing week in some locations familiar from our earliest family holidays. See you later).


Gavin McL said...

I'm not sure why we have "deep" thoughts, why they are more important than shallow thoughts. My job occasionally takes me to the sea and it does feel different to be in the shallow North Sea (especially as the vessel I normally work on is so huge that even if it sank in the North Sea chances are a significant portion would remain above the waves)than in the North Atlantic where the seabed lies a couple of thousand meters below, truly deep, truly unknown. I have also been deep underground (I used to pothole) and I loved the strangeness, the shape of the rocks, the isolation, the effects on the mind.
Perhaps deep thoughts are those ones that come from uncharted places, where people do not normally go.

Mike C. said...

Gavin -- Yes, the mysterious, dangerous deeps of the sea are a good source of powerful metaphors -- "full fathom five" is not even that deep (30 feet, almost snorkelling depth?).

We run a library down at the dockfront (the National Oceanographic Centre) which I occasionally have cause to visit, and it's always a vicarious thrill to see the Antarctic Survey ships tied up at the quay. In another life, that could have been me (I have the beard for it, if nothing else).

Potholing, though... That is the stuff of nightmares, for me. Not so much "deep" as "trapped", "stuck", and "squashed"!

Gavin McL said...

It's difficult to write much english without coming across a maritime metaphor or reference.

I toyed with a career at sea but having experienced a few voyages I am happy with occasional nights at sea every so often.

The word cavers use is "tight". To be honest I was never much good in a tight hole and I balked at a couple of tight squeezes and exited the cave on my own whilst the others continued.

But most caves aren't that small and whilst most people think of the stalagmites & tites (cavers call them pretties) as the attractive bit of caves I loved the water carved rock, like making your way through some giant abstract sculpture.
I didn't do any photography underground but I helped on a few trips - hard work hauling the gear but you did have complete control over the light, you have to bring every photon.
The other great thing about caving was getting out - into the pub.