Modern Times (not the movie) is too bulky to take to work, so I started Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice again. One of my favorite passages appears in the introduction, after Gardner has reviewed Lewis Carroll’s unsuccessful attempt to write a “book for youngsters that would convey some sort of evangelistic Christian message.”
Ironically, it is Carroll’s earlier and pagan nonsense that has, at least for a few modern readers, a more effective religious message than Sylvie and Bruno. For nonsense, as Chesterton liked to tell us, is a way of looking at existence that is akin to religious humility and wonder. The Unicorn thought Alice a fabulous monster. It is part of the philosophic dullness of our time that there are millions of rational monsters walking about on their hind legs, observing the world through pairs of flexible little lenses, periodically supplying themselves with energy by pushing organic substances through holes in their faces, who see nothing fabulous whatever about themselves. Occasionally the noses of these creatures are shaken by momentary paroxysms. Kierkegaard once imagined a philosopher sneezing while recording one of his profound sentences. How could such a man, Kierkegaard wondered, take his metaphysics seriously?