- "The surface of the earth is where we're rational . . . Part of us dreads the chaos, and part of us is always attracted to it."
- "There were these things hanging from the ceiling…long strands of bacteria called "snotsicles"… But at our feet was a natural stream that had been running through Brooklyn forever."
- "It's…about death. Undergoing a death. We're going into the other world and then retreating to the surface… changed in some way."
The first time I attempted to play Minecraft with my then-seven-year-old son, we immediately dug ourselves into a pit deep in the Earth and could not get out. In spite of the crappy 8-bit graphics, all of our primal, H.P. Lovecraftian terrors of the underground were activated. We were trapped! We were lost! We might die down here!
Will Hunt, on the other hand, has been climbing eagerly since childhood into dank and disorienting tunnels, caves, sewers, and other underground spaces, from abandoned New York City subway platforms to ancient Mayan temples of human sacrifice in the caverns of Belize. In his brilliant new book UNDERGROUND: a Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet, he takes us physically and spiritually along on some of these adventures. Part global, subterranean travelogue, part meditation on human curiosity, UNDERGROUND plumbs the philosophical depths of our primal awe of what lies beneath. . . . and it almost makes me want to go play Minecraft, where at least there are no rats.
Surprise conversation starters in this episode: