Boffo: Nonsense, foolishness, and the comedic
(please note that this is a totally provisional workspace,
likely to change drastically as my exploration unfolds)
version of 24iv23

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen.
"When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
(from Through the Looking-Glass)

Somewhere in the last weeks I got to thinking about mirror images, and so to the possible contents of the worlds on the other side of the Mirror, and to our interfaces with the outer world which seem to give us access to MirrorWorld (think computer screen, TV screen, movie screen...). These are pretty deep waters, awash in challenges to our notions of Real Reality, but obviously compelling. And so it occurred to me that the Siren Song of Nonsense is forever inviting us onto the rocks of UnReality...

I can't remember when I didn't know the images that went along with the wonderful Story of Alice, which was read to me many times (mostly by my beloved sister Alice), until I could read it myself.

Pretty much everybody has some familiarity with Alice in Wonderland, and the addition of characters from Through the Looking-Glass (Jabberwocky, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Red Queen, H. Dumpty...) rounds out the Carrollean menage. A look at Wikipedia will fill in any gaps in your irreality:

Through the Looking-Glass

and, to gauge the reach of this nonsensical realm, consider

Works based on Alice in Wonderland

Amazon blurb:
Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) is a work of children's literature by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), generally categorized as literary nonsense. It is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Although it makes no reference to the events in the earlier book, the themes and settings of Through the Looking-Glass make it a kind of mirror image of Wonderland: the first book begins outdoors, in the warm month of May, on Alice's birthday (May 4), uses frequent changes in size as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of playing cards; the second opens indoors on a snowy, wintry night exactly six months later, on November 4 (the day before Guy Fawkes Night), uses frequent changes in time and spatial directions as a plot device, and draws on the imagery of chess. In it, there are many mirror themes, including opposites, time running backwards, and so on.


Perhaps the Question that lurks behind these 19th century classics is:

what roles does/should/can nonsense play in one's life?
(I've already made the case for whimsy in my own being, but that's just one kind of nonsense.)
What are other kinds of nonsense that you have engaged with?

What would you prescribe for the young as essential nonsense reading/viewing?


(please note that I am unconstrained by "the colloquial conception of nonsense" that sees Nonsense in the pejorative voice:
...language having no meaning ... conduct, action that is senseless ... conveying no intelligible ideas ...
behavior that is silly or stupid ... no meaning or pattern ... an untrue statement
and see for a lexicon of terms that belittle 'nonsense'.

I want much more elbow room for Nonsense:
to include a great deal that can only be as a product of Imagination:
the fanciful, the not-really-possible, the Path Not Taken, the fictive)

It's no surprise that Maria Popova has sage things to contribute:

Reality, of course, is a tapestry of subjectivities and tacit consensuses,
trapped often in the frames of reference laid down by any given life
and always in the limitations of human consciousness, with its myriad blind spots for
strata of reality we are physiologically and psychologically unequipped to perceive.
It is only through metaphor that we can begin to conceive of what we cannot perceive,
be it an atom or the black hole at the center of our galaxy or the pain of another.


There are many ways to approach the rocky shores of Nonsense,
and Charlie helps us out:

but how did he do that, as character and as actor?

or consider these four examples of nonsense-fuelled Pianism, and ask what is it they're doing?:




and maybe see Analyzing Hiromi Uehara's "Pachelbel's Canon"


My practice of consulting the library shelves to see what I have that bears on the Question often surprises me with things I hadn't put together before, and prompts rethinkings. Turns out that nonsense is a very strong suit out our way (to nobody's surprise, I'm sure), and a few examples might prompt you to consider analogs in your own experience.

Each bullet below is a rabbit hole, or congeries of rabbit holes, into which one might poke a questing nose.

A Last Word from Gelernter's Mirror Worlds: Or: The Day Software Puts the Universe in a Shoebox...How It Will Happen and What It Will Mean from 1991:

An event will happen someday soon: you will look into a computer screen and see reality ... this Mirror World you are looking at is fed by a steady rush of new data pouring in through cables ... these programs are intended to help you comprehend the powerful super-techno-glossy, dangerously complicated and basically indifferent man-made environments that enmesh you, and that control you to the extent that you don't control them. (pg 6)