On Scuba Diving
Today was my ten-year-old daughter’s first experience of scuba diving. We explored avenues of coral, while impossible-looking fish slipped everywhere. Our guide handed us sea anenomes and other creatures to hold, to photograph us with them. Predictably, he later tried to sell us the photographs for an outrageous price, making me reflect on how desperately people want their experiences to be represented somehow, and on how inadequate are our means of representation.
Because a photograph of someone holding a sea cucumber with MAUI written on it — while possibly useful as an alibi — conveys nothing of the experience of putting on masks and costumes, as if in preparation for tribal warfare, and venturing into a realm where one has imperfect control over one’s altitude, and the sea surface has become a sun-splattered, shifting ceiling, and the need to communicate with gestures fosters a sense of conspiracy. A scuba expedition resembles a shamanic dream-journey, and perhaps, if we entertain the Aquatic Ape hypothesis, awakens memories from even deeper in our history. Will there ever be an underwater camera that can capture such feelings?