Thursday, December 17, 2015

Was Lewis Carroll enlightened?

I daresay I'm like most of my contemporaries in knowing about Lewis Carroll's Alice books – without having read them. As a child, I owned a 45 rpm record containing the songs from the 1951 Disney movie, Alice in Wonderland and I saw the movie as well. But, having just read Anthony Lane's article in the June 8 and 15, 2015 New Yorker, I see now how much I didn't know about these tales.

Of course, we are talking about a journey here – and Lane's choice of quotations, if not his text, make it clear that this is a spiritual journey. Here's the first:

“'You know very well you're not real.'
'I am real!' said Alice, and began to cry.
'You won't make yourself a bit realler by crying,' Tweedledee remarked: 'there's nothing to cry about.'
'If I wasn't real,' Alice said – half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous – 'I shouldn't be able to cry.'
'I hope you don't suppose those are real tears?' Tweedledum interrupted in a tone of great contempt.”

Was Carroll enlightened? Or just amusing himself? Or maybe a combination of both?

Here's another: 

“I hardly know which is me and which is the inkstand. . . . The confusion in one's mind doesn't so much matter – but when it comes to putting bread-and-butter, and the orange marmalade, into the inkstand; and then dipping pens into oneself, and filling oneself up with ink, you know, it's horrid!”

Rumi, who definitely wasn't kidding, expressed it thus:
                                              There are no words to explain
                                  no tongue,                                             
                                              how when that player touches
                                 the strings, it is me playing
                                 and being played,
                                              how existence turns
                                 around this music, how stories
                                 grow from the trunk, 
                                              how cup and mouth
                                 swallow each other with the wine. . . .