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Friday, April 28, 2017

It's Hard To Be The Pope If You Are The Soap.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) gave us this ditty called "The Mad Gardener's Song."

He thought he saw an Elephant
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
'At length I realize,' he said,
'The bitterness of Life!'

He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister's Husband's Niece.
'Unless you leave this house,' he said,
'I'll send for the Police!'

He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it as
The Middle of Next Week.
'The one thing I regret,' he said,
'Is that it cannot speak!'

He thought he saw a Banker's Clerk
Descending from the 'bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus.
'If this should stay to dine,' he said,
'There won't be much for us!'

He thought he saw a Kangaroo
That worked a coffee-mill:
He looked again, and found it was
A Vegetable-Pill.
'Were I to swallow this,' he said,
'I should be very ill!'

He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
That stood beside his bed:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bear without a Head.
'Poor thing,' he said, 'poor silly thing!
It's waiting to be fed!'

He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and found it was
A Penny-Postage-Stamp.
'You'd best be getting home,' he said,
'The nights are very damp!'

He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
'And all its mystery,' he said,
'Is clear as day to me!'

He thought he saw an Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
'A fact so dread,' he faintly said,
'Extinguishes all hope!'


Someone said that one way to deal with Postmodernism is to go back one step to Modernism, and here we find Lewis Carroll. From this place, we are able to see through Carroll's looking glass, get his view of reality as he, through his writing such as the poem above, described us. He told his readers (indirectly, of course) that a time would come when words no longer matter, language is without meaning and people cease to think. So stepping back behind Carroll and taking his viewpoint, as illustrated in the afore-mentioned poem, what do you see?
What do you think you see?
Do you like what you see? Did Carroll explain us well?

To think means to look again. So look again. Think. Read his poem and see the world around you.

I believe Socrates would have defined truth as "speaking what is" and Carroll shows us ourselves, our society, our world--and we laugh at the nonsense!

Ours is a time when advertising replaces the necessary role-models for life, driving one to find his or her identity in some 15-30 second technologically charged sermons convincing one to "sell" or "buy" someone else's idea of who or what one should be. We've allowed someone else to decide whether or not we should reinvent ourselves, and if we do, this is "how" and "who" we should be. No thinking necessary! Become a product!

I am challenged daily to stop and think, to look again for truth. The reason is not to question truth but to wrap my thoughts around it and in turn, organize life by it. Sometimes, it helps to have someone to speak truth into life. I once erred by becoming pragmatic (I say, "once"-- perhaps I still do). What happens if once ceases to think? One becomes mottled soap.
Know what that is, mottled soap? It's that one irredeemable piece of soap that remains incessantly soggy, sticking to the dish and defies removal except by time and lots of water. That squishy, slimy, silky sliver that resists every force placed upon it to assimilate it into a new bar of soap. A good-for-nothing, broken, formless . . . clod. That's what happens when one ceases to think and all meaning is lost. Not good for much except squishing through the fingers until it's gone. That's what Carroll meant, I think.

In closing, consider the Paramecium.
"What's a paramecium?" A Lost Boy once asked Peter Pan.
Peter replied, "It's a one-celled critter with no brain, that can't fly!"

Mottled soap and paramecium have much in common.

(Re-post of a blog from Feb. 2014--with revisions).

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