Many of the Fayum portraits were painted on thin wooden boards, and then wrapped into place on the surface layers of mummies, above the face of the deceased. Thin boards. Gazing for as long as the paintings endured, out and up. The thinness of our existence is both terrorizing and fantastic.
I tried to explain to my sons today how much space life on earth occupied, and ended up smearing a lick of spit along the side of a yogurt cup lid—saying that all the stuff we live in is about as thick as the slight wetness of spit if the earth was the lid. Perhaps less.
This morning, my friend Mark and I were thinking of similar matters as we walked down the country lane that connects our homes. Larry Niven’s science fiction class, ‘The Mote in God’s Eye‘, came to mind. Thinness, in this case, manifests as a cyclic and destructive pattern of behavior, which can only be broken by memory (museums) and understanding the pattern of patterns. Perhaps that is why I am fascinated by the Fayum portraits. The pattern of patterns.