a happy birthday wish goes out today to the spirit of sir john tenniel, illustrator of the british magazine, punch, and the man who engraved alice into lewis carroll's stories and alisa cooper's imagination. i remember spending as much time taking in the illustrations of those books as i did reading the adventures of alice in her looking glass world.
one of the engravings in through the looking glass illustrates the chess board valley. standing next to the queen at the top of the hill, alice sweeps her gaze across the landscape below and excitedly comments, "It's a great huge game of chess that's being played-all over the world-if this is the world at all, you know..."
the sentence now strikes a chord in me that didn't exist when i read the the book as a child. how sound a description it is of our life this side of the looking glass. my experience yesterday, waiting in line to pay the phone bill, highlighted the fact that in many cases, i am a pawn; though i can make my own moves in my chessboard valley of mexico, there are kings and knights who also make strategic decisions, affecting the rest of us in a way that spells loss. i cannot simply mail in a payment because the game of chess here doesn't allow me to do so. beyond blame, though, i still create my life by thinking about my next move and how it will hopefully allow me to end up on top. and everyone does this, from george w. bush to the toddler in the highchair next to us at lunch.
but it is the last part of alice's exclamation that really leaves me thoughtful. is this really the world at all? i'm chronically afflicted with doubting thomas symptoms, but i still wonder if this world is really the real reality.
whatever the case, i'm glad tenniel made the decision to pour out some of his artistry into carroll's works. what a winning move it was.