Sunday, April 28, 2013

Where Were We Now?

"Curiouser and curiouser!" cried Alice.
- from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (1865).

Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, 'long about now, that Lewis Carroll's white rabbit - holding a timepiece and wearing a waistcoat, no less - doesn't look to be all that great a fit with Thomas Nagel's bat.

"c emerson," you may want to be saying, "Some time ago you asked me what it would be like to be a bat, a live bat. You didn't ask me anything about what it would be like to be a fictional character - a rabbit holding a timepiece and wearing a waistcoat, no less - that appeared in some fairy tale written one hundred forty-eight years ago."

Well, I might just want to answer you this way, "Things just keep gettin' 'curiouser and curiouser' when we try to figure out who we are, and what we are made of." Mirrors or no mirrors.

"We all have a history, don't we?" is the way I just might continue, if I had a mind to continue, which I do.

"And like my title, 'Where Were We Now?' - Time, with a capital 'T,' is a factor, too, in who we are. A pocket watch, for a waistcoat, is just like an ancient stone timepiece, only easier to carry. You'd agree with that, wouldn't you, that time is part of who we are?"
Alice gave a weary sigh. "I think you might do something better with the time," she said, "than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers."
Now Lewis Carroll, whose 'real' name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was born and raised in Cheshire County, England, bordering Wales. The Mersey River flows through the County. Charles, aka Lewis, was born into a family tree filled with Anglican clerics, until the boughs were breaking, so to speak. Isn't that the way it is for everyone in England? And didn't Gerry and the Pacemakers sing a song about ferrying across the Mersey?

Did you see how I worked another time image (pacemaker) and a place name (River Mersey), right into the story about who Charles Dodgson 'really' was? Dodgson, aka Carroll, spent his professional career as a Lecturer in Mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford. While his modern fame centers on his fictional characters, particularly Alice and the White Rabbit (but don't forget the Queen, King and Jack of Hearts), Dodgson, without his pen name, published a significant number of other books, including ones in the study of logic and mathematics. His books, The Game of Logic and Symbolic Logic, are still worth the read today, in me 'umble opinion.

Didn't know all that, did 'cha? Well, it's a mug's game, if Knave ye be. And a Queen's game, if you like this sort of thing.

Maybe you did know all those things. I know I didn't ... not until I learned about Dodgson, aka Carroll, set into his own place and own time. This dialogue is well-suited to my own learning curve:
"Please would you tell me," said Alice, a little timidly, "why your cat grins like that?"

"It's a Cheshire-Cat," said the Duchess, "and that's why."

""I didn't know that Cheshire-Cats always grinned; in fact, I didn't know that cats could grin," said Alice.

"You don't know much," said the Duchess, "and that's a fact."

If all these metaphors, icons and symbols strike no chords with "you" -- that is, with your own deep-seated Self -- then let me clarify a bit more; nay, let me make it as clear as day; just like the tree carving here of 'Greenman,' who stands at the center of the Tatton Park Maze in Cheshire, hoisting a compass for lost travelers to survey, on land that Lewis Carroll may have walked on: here and now, in our search for an understanding of our Selves, we (meaning I, unless you join in this journey with me) have now added a Where and When to what was already a What and Who. We -- you and I and they and those and others like them and those and us -- all seem to exist somewhere, within our own bodies or within our own minds, and at some place and some time.

But exactly where is there?

It seemed so peaceful, on the river. Then Alice went to sleep, and the Sweep of Time changed everything, and the White Rabbit rushed by, through the recesses of her mind.
"Dear, dear! How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. Was I the same when I got up this morning? but if I'm not the same, the next question is, 'Who in the world am I?' Ah, that's the great puzzle."
- queried Alice, just a fictional character, lost in a maze down some rabbit hole.

YES, EXACTLY: who are we?


Almost sounds like song:

In the midst of war-torn America, in a world where up seems to be down, where neighbor wants to hate neighbor, and the axe is ready to fall, "go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall."

When the clock strikes midnight, but won't show a pattern on the wall, and "the men on the chessboard", are all telling "you where to go", then "go ask Alice, I think she'll know."

That, at least some of it, from the Jefferson Airplane (1967), mixed with a number of my own eclectic phrases (which J.A. might well reject), seems to portend some pretty sage advice, if we only knew what it meant.

Like being a bat, in some specific place and at some specific time, somewhere out here on planet Earth, or just in the back of your own mind.

But like Alice, let's never forget:
... if you drink from a bottle marked "poison," it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.
Now where did that bat go?

UPDATE: This post was moved from (4/23/13) along with any comments. Note that this post's title and Blogspot URL will no longer match, but the title here is correct.


- all inset quotes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (1865), Bookbyte Digital Edition; ISBN #978-1-61306-025-4 (text in the public domain; freely downloaded in iBooks onto iPad and iPhone)

- facts and data about Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) and Cheshire, England, from Wikipedia articles on "Lewis Carroll" and "Cheshire" at and

- song reference, Ferry Cross the Mersey, by Gerry and the Pacemakers (1964)

- lyrics (quoted and then interspersed with non-lyrics) from song, White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane (1967); thanks Brad, I was trying to figure out how to tie this together.

- Earth Day was yesterday, the day I intended to post this piece; uploading delays changed my plans; my, where does the time go? Let's do whatever it takes to save the planet, even scurry down a rabbit hole if need be. It may cost me a vote or two, but check out my post, "Bicycles Will Cost Less" on my other blog, Random Walk way back in 2008; the time is getting late, and the Queen won't wait: it'll be "off with our heads" if we aren't careful. And by the way, I'm not running for anything.

Image Credits

- The White Rabbit, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865), photo courtesy of From Old Books at

- Ancient Stone Sundial from Marcianoplis, courtesy of Museum of Mosaicas (2010), Devnya, Bulgaria; Wikipedia article "Sundial" at (CCA-SA-3.0)

- Map of County of Cheshire, England, contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database rights, at and

- 'Greenman', Tatton Park Maze, Cheshire, England, courtesy of Tim Burgess, sculpted by Tim Burgess, Rosterne, Cheshire, England, at and ("The plinth on the top has the four corners of the compass marked upon it ... there are 244 leaves on the tree -- which is the number of steps it takes to get from the Maze entrance to the tree ... I think this tree has real spirit, maybe it is in his eyes ... I feel he is a bringer of luck and good fortune").

- Macclesfield Canal, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, photograph by Patrick Hogan, courtesy of Pictures of England at (all rights reserved; not for commercial use).

- Longleat Hedge Maze, Longleat House, County of Somerset, photograph by Lewis Clarke (CCA-SA-2.0) at

- Vertical Declining Sundial, Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, County of Suffolk, England (photograph placed in the public domain) at



Brad said...

Brad's comment was moved (by ce) from (4-23-13):

Can I comment now?

c emerson said...

c emerson's comment moved (by ce) from (4-23-13):

Sure, all done setting the pics and re-arranging the defense. Have you been waiting?

Brad said...

Brad's comment moved (by ce) from (4-23-13):

Like a caterpillar smoking a hookah. Thanks for the credit. Great catch with the Greenman! And the ancient sun dial. This is the craziest philosophy book I ever saw. But good show, and all that. You know you missed a Dylan op.

c emerson said...

c emerson's comment moved (by ce) from (4-23-13):

Nope, just thought it a bit too much, even for the Jack of Hearts:
The backstage manager was pacing all around by his chair,
"There's something funny going on," he said, "I can just feel it in the air."
He went to get the hangin' judge, but the hangin' judge was drunk,
As the leading actor hurried by in the costume of a monk,
There was no actor anywhere better than the Jack of Hearts.
-- Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts (1974).
-- the only difference between Carroll's Knave of Hearts and Dylan's Jack is ... the Knave gave back the tarts.
-- so what's the moral in that?

Brad out said...

Brad out's comment moved (by ce) from (4-23-13):

Alrighty then. Holy Cow, Batman, I just saw a bat, and it flew right into the rabbit hole. Must go to work, at a given time and place, but that's just me talking, or I think it was me.

Anna Maria said...

Anna Maria's comment moved (by ce) from (4-24-13):

Great post C.E.! I had never contemplated Alice In Wonderland as being a philosophical "riddle," but it really is. Thanks for pointing that out.

... "if you drink from a bottle marked "poison," it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later."

I can see the Bible being a metaphor in that quote...except the ancient authors forgot to mark it "poison."

On another note, you had asked if I knew anything about publishing E-Books. I haven't, but have a good author friend in Australia who is currently posting tips on how to do that. There is a link to to blog:

c emerson said...

c emerson's comment moved (by ce) from (4-24-13):

Anna Maria, you are too kind. Lots of poison around. Thanks for the link; already checking it out. Just realized today - when I set this blog up using just an iPhone - I could not use some of the editing tools to create "e-mail subscriptions" etc. Will get that fixed soon as I next get to a 'real computer.'

The loss of Self in a rabbit hole, and the mystery of change to Self on a daily basis - is present to us all.

bth84 said...

bth84's comment moved (by ce) from (4-26-13):

Saw you on Oerter's blog. This looks interesting. I assume you will post more about Nagel's concepts?

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