Tuesday, June 10, 2008


One of the fun things I have on my iGoogle home page is a gadget that each morning delivers me a Buddhist Thought of the Day. It’s just what you’d expect: a smorg of cryptic, pithy, and thoughtful sayings by various sages and masters both ancient and contemporary (Uma Thurman’s daddy hasn’t shown up yet, but I’m sure he will). Then one day, to my great surprise, there was this one from The Beatles: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Like you, I’ve heard the song it’s from, “I Am The Walrus” many times. But in this new context, I have to admit my first reaction was kind of a Scooby Doo one – hunnh?! But, on closer inspection, I think it is indeed mystic and deeply wise, and perfectly at home in a Buddhist gadget. And when I looked up the story behind the lyrics, I found myself, if not down the rabbit hole, at least wrapped up in another daisy chain. Here’s how this one goes, although not necessarily in any order.

Daisy #1 – “I Am The Walrus” is chock-a-block full of crazy references and allusions, specifically designed by John Lennon to drive all those who pick apart song lyrics looking for hidden meanings around the bend. Bon voyage! I won’t go into all of them here, but just give you the Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_the_Walrus so those who are so inclined can read the whole thing. It’s really worth it. The thing we’ll focus on here is that the Walrus in the song is a reference to the Walrus in the poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” which Lewis Carroll wrote and embedded in his 2-volume children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. These are two of the trippiest books ever written, for kids or anyone. Carroll (pen name of one Charles L. Dodgson, famous British author, logician, mathematician, photographer, and an ordained Anglican minister) named the book’s title character after Alice Liddell (photo right), daughter of a friend and colleague. Like John Lennon, Carroll was really into puzzles, word games and sly references. He’s credited with inventing, or at least popularizing, those addicting Word Ladders. With such rich material, plus Carroll’s own list of eccentricities, it’s not surprising that he has spawned an on-going bunch of Carrollian followers, societies and clubs. You think Sherlock Holmes has a big fan base? You think Trekkies are nutty? You have no idea. Oh, p.s. - there's also some tidbits from Alice in another Beatles tune, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

Daisy #2 – “White Rabbit” Jefferson Airplane. Because of the image of Alice changing her size by sampling the contents of a strange bottle labeled DRINK ME, and eating a hunk of mushroom recommended by that caterpillar with the hookah, it was a natural for a late ‘60s song reference. Feed your head, indeed. Grace Slick’s anthem is practically a GPS rendering of Alice’s entire little adventure.

Daisy #3 – I did a Google search for “musical compositions inspired by Lewis Carroll” and found there are dozens – everybody from Irving Berlin to Aerosmith. Not all were from the Alice books; some came from Carroll’s Snark and Jabberwocky material, but still, the most recent I found was 2007!

Daisy#4 – Several words have entered English through the nonsense poem, Jabberwocky. We have Carroll to thank for “chortle” “galumphing” “frabjous” and “vorpal” or “vorpal sword” (as any Dungeons and Dragons player will note).

I bet Lewis Carroll would think the whole thing is pretty frabjous. And quite an accomplishment for a children's book first published in 1865.

I Am The Walrus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO9M_5aTRvE

White Rabbit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LdwGUXoXyA

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