With due apologies to Lewis Carroll. Third Place, Journey Through Genres!
"Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe."
(First verse of Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll. Originally published: 1871.)
Something about it makes sense, and something doesn't. It sounds familiar, and yet when someone asks you to explain it, you find yourself nonplussed. And it is titled Jabberwocky.
In the days when we're asking each other if we've had our 'jab', and which brand, and whether we've had the first dose or the second, the name JABberwocky seems ironically relevant.
We're in the midst of a lethal pandemic. We've been isolating ourselves, wearing masks, washing our hands, using sanitizer, attending online events, praying, consoling each other, watching the news, avoiding the news.
Above all, we're trying to stay safe.
We've damaged the earth, altered the climate, driven other species to extinction and now it's our turn to feel the fear and experience the loneliness, and we're doing so. The desperate attempt is to protect ourselves from the consequences of our own actions. Our actions being huge and thoughtless, the battle against the consequences is equally gigantic and sometimes appears to be hopeless.
Social media is full of the virus ... family members and friends are infected. Some are on the road to recovery. One reads that a former colleague who was posting on Facebook complaining that the hospital food is 'rubbery and full of garlic' has passed away three days later. Hospitals are running out of oxygen. People are appealing for blood to help their loved ones survive. Sometimes, the sense of despair can be overwhelming.
But, being human, we are resilient. We've survived epidemics before. After all, some believe that Shakespeare wrote 'King Lear' while he was in quarantine during the plague. Others say Newton developed the fundamentals of calculus ... while in quarantine.
Live, we must. Even to the extent of striving for immortality, actually or via our work, our legacy, our offspring. When we study basic biology we accept that all living organisms have a life cycle. Some insects die within 24 hours of being hatched. We accept that we'll likely outlive our pet canine. But we're not ready to accept that we, ourselves, must die. We invent pills and potions and machines and procedures to keep alive. Everyone must live to be a hundred, nobody must ever die, and yet, more babies must be born.
We see the imbalance in the height of our apartment houses and office blocks, in the congestion on the freeways, the queues at the unemployment department. We see the imbalance in the riots that break out when neighboring states fight for the depleting flow of water from a sacred river. We see it in the geriatric diseases that hit us, because the longevity of parts of the body that should've perished is being lengthened artificially. We see it in the declining mental health of youngsters, who feel trapped in a crowded world of diminishing natural resources.
And these days, we see the imbalance in the lack of air, as the vital oxygen-giving plants are chopped to make room for wifi towers and the relatives of Covid-19 patients use these wifi towers to beg for oxygen.
We must live. we must understand that life is a gift. We must understand that the fragile nature of this gift is what makes it beautiful. And that, when our time comes, we must die. But till then, we keep going. And we hope and pray -- and our hope gives us strength, and our faith sustains us.
A source of hope in all the despair is the vaccine.
The JAB in JABberwocky.
Take the jab and you'll be protected.
Or will you?
Time was when we accepted our place in the overall scheme of things. If we were predators, we were also prey. When we went out to collect our food or hunt it, we could wind up being someone (or something)'s dinner. This wasn't acceptable to us ... and we took measures to guard against all predators, while seeking new ways to slaughter our prey. Killing used to be for food or self defense. It is now for sport, convenience, fashion and profit. We kill directly as well as indirectly, using products that choke, trap and gash other living beings. The only thing that could reinstate the natural balance was a monster predator, and it has now manifested itself. We have forced it to manifest itself.
There are those who say you will be protected if you take the jab. At least to the extent of seventy per cent. Or is it ninety per cent? There are some who say your immunity actually decreases after the first dose, so be more careful (paranoid) than you've been thus far. There are those who say take it as soon as you're eligible, there are others who tell you to wait and watch -- it's too early, who knows what the side effects are going to be? Well, the side effect of not getting jabbed could be worse, couldn't it? But we've managed so far with masks, soap and sanitizer, haven't we? This virus is out to get you -- masks, soap and sanitizer are just dodges, not shields. How long are you going to keep running? It'll outrun you.
Thus we're bombarded with questions without answers and answers without questions, and in the midst of it all, we're trying to decide. Decide what's good for ourselves, what's good for our young children, what's good for our aged parents. We have no crystal ball to help us make the decision. All we have is gibberish. Guidelines, opinions and a lot of words said in the JABberwockian language, which we think we ought to understand but which somehow eludes comprehension.
There are those few doctors who whisper 'don't take the jab' and lay people who shout 'take the jab and save humanity'. Some argue the benefits of one vaccine over the other. Some say these cannot be judged on a long term basis because the virus itself hasn't been around long term, let alone the vaccine. We have to interpret the language and, once we think we've understood, take action (or not) as we choose, for our personal benefit.
The original poem speaks of an enemy, a weapon and a brave fighter who killed the enemy. But the words used are unclear, Who is the enemy? What is the weapon? Who are the brave warriors? Some say nature is the enemy. Some blame the higher power. Some blame the government. Some say it began as an accident, some say it was engineered. Some name nature, the higher power or the government as the savior, not the enemy.
Whom do we listen to?
Shall we listen to the earth? And by the way, have you realized that 'earth' and 'heart' are anagrams of each other? Shall we strip aside all pretense, all selfishness, all superficiality, and just go deep into our heart, and listen for a moment to the rhythm?
What'll we hear?
The cries of all the trees we have cut? The splash of the streams we have polluted? The wails of the creatures we have maimed and killed? The whoosh of the air we have poisoned? Will we ponder on the side effects of our race to be bigger, better, faster, greater? Or in pondering the side effects of the jab we must now take, in two doses for effect, will we go deaf to the earth and its anagram, the heart?
Whom will we harm, if we choose to turn a deaf ear? None but ourselves. The earth was in existence long before we came along, and the earth will continue after we wipe ourselves off it, and good riddance. We are the pestilence, the parasite. We are dispensable. The earth does not need us, we need the earth.
And we need a jab against Covid-19, if we're to survive as a species. At least, that's how the JABberwockian I've heard so far has translated itself to me. It may sound different to you, and you may be right.
But what I do think is we need a jab against our own greed, our own self-centeredness, our own sense of entitlement.
If someone could invent that, we would truly save humanity.
Original Poem ▼
"Journey Through Genres - April 2021 Winners!"
Third Place - "Jabberwocky 2021"