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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Snark Hunting in a World of Sharks


I grew up listening to stories by Lewis Carroll. My favorite poem was “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from “Alice in Wonderland.” My aunt, who was only six years older, read it to me so many times that she ran from me whenever I had "the book." Finally I was able to read the poem myself.

Alice’s weird meanderings after she fell down the rabbit hole have enlivened my own imagination. When Disney’s version came out, I took my children to see it. The Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire cat seemed even more frightening on the big screen.

Carroll not only had a vivid imagination, but he knew how to entertain children. I remember being terribly disappointed when I finished reading the book and discovered that Alice’s wild ride through Wonderland was only a dream. In fact, the scenes seemed so real to me that I refused to believe they didn’t happen.
Another of Carroll’s creations is a poem called “The Hunting of the Snark.”  It’s like sending someone on a wild goose chase just to get them out of the way. A Snark was an imaginary animal at fault when a goal was illusive, hard or impossible to achieve. When things went wrong, you could always blame the Snark.
At the turn of the century the term “snarky” had been coined to describe someone who was sharply critical and who found fault at every turn. Today, we might describe that kind of person as paranoid and always hunting down imaginary enemies or creating made-up obstacles (so they have an excuse for failure). What does paranoia look like?


We all have a bit of the Paranoia in us:  fear, suspicion, mistrust, obsession (with our own weaknesses or others’ greatness). If we’re not careful our Paranoia can turn into hysteria: panicky, overworked, nervous, frenzied, and finally madness. Not a place anyone wants to end up.



Enjoy part of Lewis Carroll’s poem:
The Hunting of the Snark
Fit the First
            The Landing

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

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

The crew was complete: it included a Boots—
   A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—
   And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
   Might perhaps have won more than his share—
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
   Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
   Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
   Though none of the sailors knew how.

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

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

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


If you’d like to see how the poem ends, find Carroll’s poem and go Snark hunting!