Snark and Boojum Today

Lewis Carroll’s and Henry Holiday’s The Hunting of the Snark made me digging into British history and the history the Anglican church (especially the Oxford Movement).

It’s not history, at least not a finished one.

To me, Carroll’s tragicomedy (a tragedy in Henry Holiday’s view) is about the doctrinal conflicts (some of them lethal) arising along the travel to truth, whatever that might be. These conflicts within and between belief systems surely didn’t end today. Also the concrete disputes which might have inspired the Rev. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) in the 19th century seem to be going on even today. All that is quite strange to me (not only because I am a German). I can’t take sides, because I don’t even understand how and why the disputed issues can be issues at all.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/church-england-has-sent-clear-message-its-conservative-churchgoers-youre-not-wanted-1611289:

The Church of England has sent a clear message to its conservative churchgoers – you’re not wanted.

The treatment of Bishop Philip North, an Anglo-Catholic, shows the Church’s prospects for unity are grim.
By Andrew Sabisky March 13, 2017 13:16 GMT

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that the Church of England is at it again. Fresh off a truly disastrous session of General Synod (the Church’s parliament), it has plunged itself headlong into further public ignominy.

The latest disaster concerns Bishop Philip North, currently the Bishop of Burnley. He was chosen by the bureaucracy to be the new Bishop of Sheffield (a promotion from suffragan to diocesan status). []

Not only the ongoing struggles in the Anglican Church still are turning Snarks into Boojums. The multicultural beasts are very alife today, perhaps more than ever.


106        … the Captain they trusted so well
107    Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
108        And that was to tingle his bell.

109    He was thoughtful and grave—but the orders he gave
110        Were enough to bewilder a crew.
111    When he cried “Steer to starboard, but keep her headlarboard!”
112        What on earth was the helmsman to do?

113    Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
114        A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
115    That frequently happens in tropical climes,
116        When a vessel is, so to speak, “snarked.”

117    But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
118        And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
119    Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
120        That the ship would not travel due West!

Beyond Oxford and beyond the church, Carroll’s tragicomedy also applies to the conflicts (some of them lethal) arising along the travel to truth in worldly matters. In the last years more and more Boojums got in the way of the travellers. Most of them are notorious liars. How evil they are you’ll understand if you see what kind of leadership they admire.

 
1st post: 2017-01-21, update: 2018-08-07

What I tell you three times is true!

001    “Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
002        As he landed his crew with care;
003    Supporting each man on the top of the tide
004        By a finger entwined in his hair.

005    “Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
006        That alone should encourage the crew.
007    Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
008        What I tell you three times is true.

329    “’Tis the voice of the Jubjub!” he suddenly cried.
330        (This man, that they used to call “Dunce.”)
331    “As the Bellman would tell you,” he added with pride,
332        “I have uttered that sentiment once.

333    “’Tis the note of the Jubjub! Keep count, I entreat;
334        You will find I have told it you twice.
335    ’Tis the song of the Jubjub! The proof is complete,
336        If only I’ve stated it thrice.

 
Kelly Ramsdell Fineman told us …

… that President Theodore Roosevelt and Edith Wharton were huge fans of the Snark. On one visit to the White House, Wharton learned of the following exchange that occurred between the President and the Secretary of the Navy (undoubtedly unaware of Carroll’s poem, or at least unaware that Roosevelt was quoting):

During discussion, Roosevelt said to the secretary of the Navy,

“Mr. Secretary, what I tell you three times is true!”

The Secretary replied stiffly,

“Mr. President, it would never for a moment have occurred to me to impugn your veracity.”

Yes, better don’t impugn your leader’s veracity. Even though he will get rid of you rather sooner than later, you don’t need to push it.

 

The Bellman’s Rule is stated in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, line #7 and line #335. I said it in Lua – wrote it in Python, I made that indeed, but I wholly forgot (when finally done), that Haskell is what you need! So, here is an example for how to implement that rule:

#! /usr/bin/haskell
import Data.List
statementList :: [String]
statementList =
  ["I am a stable genius!"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"There are 9 Snark hunters."
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"I am a stable genius!"
  ,"Brexit promises will be kept!"
  ,"Brexit promises will be kept!"
  ,"Brexit promises will be kept!"
  ,"6 * 7 = 39"
  ,"6 * 7 = 39"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"6 * 7 = 42"
  ,"I am a stable genius!"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ,"6 * 7 = 39"
  ,"There are 10 Snark hunters."
  ]
atLeastThrice :: [String] -> [String]
atLeastThrice sL =
  [head grp | grp <-
    group $ sort sL, length grp >= 3]

Result (if loaded and executed in GHCi):

*Main> atLeastThrice statementList
["6 * 7 = 39","Brexit promises will be kept!","I am a stable genius!","There are 10 Snark hunters."]

If you want to prove other claims, just change claims.

 
2017-12-16, update: 2018-07-25

Article 42 in the 42 Articles

In June 2018, Karen Gardiner suggested that in The Hunting of the Snark, Carroll/Dodgson addressed the Article 42 in Thomas Cranmer‘s Articles.
        Gardiner’s paper (Life, Eternity, and Everything: Hidden Eschatology in the Works of Lewis Carroll, July 2018, p.25~41 in THE CARROLLIAN, No. 31) also was based on her knowledge as an Anglican Priest.
        My approach to a possible reference in The Hunting of the Snark to the 42 Articles was different. If I look back at what came into my mind in the year 2014, it was Henry Holiday who made me curious to learn more about the articles 27, 41 and 42 and whether they might have been an issue for the Reverend Dodgson.

Three Creeds

To what could the Baker’s “three boots” refer?

This office [of the Helmsman] was usually undertaken by the Boots, who found in it a refuge from the Baker’s constant complaints about the insufficient blacking of his three pairs of boots.

029    The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
030        He had seven coats on when he came,
031    With three pairs of boots—but the worst of it was,
032        He had wholly forgotten his name.

In Understanding Carroll’s Theological and Philosophical Views” (2010), John Tufail wrote:

The Jowett controversy was just a small part of what he [Pusey] saw as an extremely serious challenge to the authority of the Anglican Church and the basic tenets (the 32 [typo: Tufail meant 39] articles and the three Creeds) upon which the Church was based. To Pusey three things were absolute both in terms of faith and of meaning. These were the inviolability of ‘The Word’ discussed above, the concept of ‘Original Sin’, and the idea of ‘Eternal damnation’ for those deemed unrepentant or beyond Salvation. Of the three, the one closest to Pusey’s heart – the thing that most of all kept the Christian flock close to the fold, was the idea of Eternal Damnation. Pusey’s views on this were clearly defined in a letter he wrote on the subject to Bishop Wilberforce in February 1864:

One can hardly think of anything for the hidden blasphemy of that judgement which declares to be uncertain which our Lord taught, and for the loss of the countless souls which it will involve, if not repudiated by the Church. For nothing, I suppose. Keeps men from any sin except the love of God or the fear of Hell.

People like lists with three points. They list up what a god may be (Trinity), and the Three Creeds are another list among such lists with three items.

The Baker’s “three boots” could be a reference to more than one of theese three items lists.


Links:

Frankly speaking, to me all this is more difficult to digest than one important apperance of “three” in nature, the three generations of matter.

Seven Coats

021     There was one who was famed for the number of things
022         He forgot when he entered the ship:
023     His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
024         And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

025     He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
026         With his name painted clearly on each:
027     But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
028         They were all left behind on the beach.

029     The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
030         He had seven coats on when he came,
031     With three pairs of boots–but the worst of it was,
032         He had wholly forgotten his name.

Flat Earth

Image source: commons.wikimedia.org

One of my articles in this blog has the title What can Science reveal? This is the quest of the Snark (quoting Philo M. Buck, 1942). I think, that the question what science can reveal is only one among several quests of the Snark. Another quest might be, how science reveals the world and how science can be threatened. Here, flat earth theory is a good example. That theory doesn’t not only aim at reverting scientific findings, but also at damaging science itself. I don’t know whether Dodgson/Carroll took any interest in that theory and the related debates, but its history helps me to improve my understanding of popular science debates and businesses in the Victorian society at around the time when Lewis Carrol wrote The Hunting of the Snark.

This week in the New Yorker, Alan Burdick wrote an article about Looking for Life on a Flat Earth, What a burgeoning movement says about science, solace, and how a theory becomes truth (2018-05-30). Very regrettably, Burdick failed to mention Christine Garwood‘s book Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea (2008). That shouldn’t happen in a magazine like the New Yorker. Didn’t Burdick read that excellent book before he wrote his article?

Garwood shows why and how science can be threatened and is being threatened. This includes John Hampden‘s (1819-1891) discrediting of journalists 1870 (p. 76), who probably had quite similar reasons for media bashing as Donald Trump had and openly described them in February 2016. If you want to make a living as influencer, you need to control the presentation of knowledge. To understand that is as important today as it was in the 19th century. It is amazing how similar the 21st century anti-scientific populism is to what happened since “Parallax” started his flat earth business in the Victorian Britain. And he meant business.

Bathing-Machines

[The New Belfry of Christ Church, Oxford] is of the best of Dodgson’s Oxford squibs, a good humored but cutting attack on Dean Liddell (the father of Alice) and the wooden cube built to contain the Cathedral bells during operations to build a new tower. Though it can still be found today behind the stone walls of the tower, the wooden cube was always a temporary plan but Dodgson was impatient and the Governing body were slow.

Source: Cristies, 2009-12-04

The Bell in The Hunting of the Snark might be interpreted as a symbol for time and time pressure. But it also might have been used by C.L. Dodgson to continue lampooning Dean Henry Liddell‘s “bonnet-box” project, a meekly geometric belfry to go up on the cathedral at Christ Church. In The New Belfry of Christ Church, a certain “D. C. L.” wrote:

§ 7. On the impetus given to Art in England by the new Belfry, Ch. Ch.

The idea has spread far and wide, and is rapidly pervading all branches of manufacture. Already an enterprising maker of bonnet-boxes is advertising ‘the Belfry pattern’: two builders of bathing-machines at Ramsgate have followed his example: one of the great London houses is supplying ‘bar-soap’ cut in the same striking and symmetrical form: and we are credibly informed that Borwick’s Baking Powder and Thorley’s Food for Cattle are now sold in no other shape.

 
more

 
2018-05-24, edited: 2018-06-25

Truth Tweaking Tweets

Why Donald Trump Can’t Kill the Truth, by Errol Morris, TIME, 2018-05-22:

[…] What is so scary about the present time is that people believe that they can assert truth just by screaming louder than others or repeating themselves endlessly, like the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”: “What I tell you three times is true.” […]

In my view, tweaking the truth is nothing new. But the ability to tweet the tweaked truth within a few seconds to millions of people makes the difference. It turns Trump’s language (as well as the language of Trump haters) into a wide spread epidemy.

Henry Holiday's BoojumI think that Carroll’s tragicomedy (or even tragedy?) The Hunting of the Snark is very much about what we are experiencing in these days: Legimate dispute (Snark) is turning more and more into toxic eristic (Boojum). And beware if it bites you, it’s contagious! Our pursuit of happiness can take many paths, therefore conflicts are unaviodable parts of our journey. But beware of the day, if your Snark be a Boojum! For then you will softly and suddenly vanish away, and never be met with again.

 


By the way: As for an on-line Snark, Morris’ article links to the Poetry Foundation. They do a good job, but Ebooks Adelaide offers a better on-line rendering of the poem. My version is based on an earlier Ebooks Adelaide version.