Magic and fantasy are enticing pastimes for many and, for a few lucky ones, even more. Well-known magicians and writers have parlayed their fanciful imagination into a profitable, wonderous and entertaining segment of their lives. Illusions, sleight of hand, oratory or literary supposition are often at the root of a successful performance or product. Generally speaking, consumers are aware of this and welcome the respite from some of the harsh realities of everyday life. Such performances and writings have been a primary element of many civilizations for centuries and proven useful to elicit pleasure, even during dire circumstances of conflict and privation.
A notable use of fantasy in children’s literature is the venerable Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871) by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, best known as Lewis Carroll. Grounded in science and recognized as an accomplished mathematician and photographer, he was also adept at entertaining his siblings with fantastical stories. In Carroll’s story, as Alice descended down a rabbit hole, so did reality. He filled wonderland with fantasy and contradictions, a place of extremes and comical characters.
In the sequel, Carroll warns of a ferocious, fictional beast… the Jabberwock! Filled with nonsensical verbiage, it makes the point that narration can be twisted and tangled to such a degree that, although the words appear to be linked and follow a discernible rhythm, there is no real meaning behind them. Jaberwocky opens with a combination of real and imagined words that give cadence, but little credence.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
This is world of Wonderland! Even a cursory look at the opening of the poem is enough to make readers scratch their heads and wonder what is going on. A glimpse of one or two recognizable words provides optimism that more will follow in a semblance of a complete thought, but that hope is quickly extinguished by a barrage of literary nonsense.
Carroll’s wonderland would fit in with the current political situation. Conflicting messages and a sense of helplessness has eroded confidence in coherent leadership. Announcements from local, regional, state and national representatives are, at times, a cacophony of words with little coherence. Businesses and health-related organizations have been buffeted by a wind that can swiftly blow in any direction. Residents can find an advocate to legitimize almost any position they choose. Local authorities try to follow county directives, but find a state order countermanding those efforts. At the top of the collective bureaucratic heap, the federal government appears to be clueless and offers disorganized advice and direction. Who to believe, who to follow?
In face of this pandemic, civil unrest and storm of conflict, it would be helpful for our local governments to speak with a single voice. Instead each city issues separate proclamations. A joint statement and action that covers the southeastern part of the Bay Area could offer timely, coherent and unified information. If a mayor’s consortium exists, it is time for it to be heard. If not, its time to consider its formation.
The communities of the Tri-City Voice coverage area have many differences in character and focus than nearby cities. We can interact with our neighbors and share our strengths, but to make sense of the Jabberwocky of the current wonderland of tribulations, a concerted effort to unify can be a critical element of preservation.