Today we went on a family trip to Wookey Hole. The caves themselves are fantastic - stunningly beautiful and very atmospheric. (And this in spite of the fact that the people running the tourist attraction tried to spice it up with bad music tracks and witches’ laughter)
Much of the cave tour takes you through naturally formed cave formations. Our guide told us that the natural chambers were formed by the flow of the River Axe through the limestone, and probably took around a million years to be created.
In order to provide easy access to a couple of chambers that were previously only accessible to divers, in the mid 20th century tunnels were blasted through the rock. Apparently it took 5 months, blasting twice each day, to create the tunnels that join up the chambers.
The natural formations are jagged. The ceilings are low. The floor is uneven. They are inconvenient. But they are beautiful.
In the man-made tunnels the walls are more smooth, the ceiling height taller, the floor more even. They are safe, functional, convenient… and utterly boring.
The difference between the two types of cave led me to think about the relationship between fast and functional, versus slow and beautiful. Obviously it is possible to create something quickly that is also very beautiful - there are many examples of artists creating works of tremendous significance in a sort of white heat of creativity.
But so often what is done quickly is also done purely for functionality, and beauty is lost. Maybe sometimes we should allow ourselves the luxury of time, so that the stream of creativity can work its magic on our limestone heads. We may not even have to wait a million years!