"I am The Walrus"
'So, who’s reading it this time?' asked the Walrus.
'Salman the Wise,' I replied.
‘He's familiar with the poem then?'
'Oh yes, he can recite it from memory, and the other one, Jaberwocky. He's a great fan of Deacon Carroll.'
'I see,' said the Walrus, scratching his bald, grey head with a flipper. 'Tell me about him.'
'He's a postmodern writer, and his books are full of dreams, nightmares, angels, demons, men who fall from airplanes and think themselves prophets, enchanting women with kohl dark eyes, mythical beasts, clowns and flying carpets.'
'Nothing like the Deacon's then?'
I was about to disagree when the Walrus winked a blubbery lidded eye and puffed out his Kitchener moustache. 'I was joking, dear boy. I'm familiar with the wise one's work, not everyones’ mug of bladderwrack infusion though. I think he'll come to a sticky end with all those halvas.'
'I think you mean fatwas.'
'When I use a word it means exactly what I choose it to mean. And sticky is what I mean.' He raised a flipper. 'But hush, dear boy, I think he's about to begin.'
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might: ...
'What did you say dear boy?' said the Walrus, holding a flipper up to his head.
'Your hearing's not getting any better,' I hissed into his drain-hole like ear, not wanting to disturb the recitation. 'I've already asked you twice. Don't you sometimes wish for something more?'
'Something more! Something more than what?'
'Something more than this.' I waived towards the enraptured audience. 'Always these same verses read from the same page. The same bright sunshine, the same sulky moon, the same over-abundance of sand and the same delicious, but gullible, oysters. Don't you wish there was something more?'
'Sounds like you having an existential mid-life crisis, dear boy. What more could you possibly want?'
'Well, for a start, why do we always have to be on the same page? Why can't we be on a different page, or even on more than one page? Would it be so much to ask to be able to move pages from time to time?'
The Walrus cocked his head, waggled his tusks and huffed through his moustache.
‘We're on the page we're on because the good Deacon put us there. Have you considered that he might have picked that page because it was the best of all possible pages to put us on? Anyway it’s a bit late to be asking the Deacon to change things now.'
'Well there's another thing,' I said. 'Why should our existence be limited to what the Deacon imagined for us? Why can't we walk on a grassy meadow instead of the beach, why should the sea be boiling hot and why can't we choose to eat Brussels sprouts instead of oysters.’
'Brussels sprouts! They give me gas. No, no, you are what you eat, dear boy. I like oysters. I eat oysters therefore I am the Walrus.'
'Or do you just eat oysters because that was only choice the Deacon gave you. What if there was another choice, one that you could make for yourself?'
The Walrus stroked his chin with a flipper. 'I see you're an anti-predestinarian. Dangerous ground I would have thought, to be questioning what the author intended.'
'But the author is dead, so why shouldn't we question it? And do his intentions even matter, surely anyone who reads his work is free to make their own judgement?'
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand; ...
'There!' I jabbed my finger into his blubbery chest. 'So much for the Deacon’s authority. He was wrong there and you know it.'
The creases on his knobbly brow deepened and he sucked his moustache in between his tusks. Then his button eyes twinkled. 'Elementary penguin! Think you might have something there, dear boy. If I remember right we were walking hand in hand.' He held up a flipper and examined it. 'Although I can't quite see how we did it.'
'It doesn't matter how we did it, this is fiction. But the point is that we did walk hand in hand, that’s what the Deacon originally wrote. It was only because a pedantic illustrator drew you with flippers that he changed it to, "close at hand."’
'But I'm still not sure how that helps you, dear boy. What's on the page is what the Deacon wrote, we are just the characters in the story. We can't change what the author wrote.'
'But what if the author is unreliable,' I said. 'Doesn't that change everything? If we know that something that is on the page now is not what was originally intended, then what else might we have been deceived about? Maybe there were clouds in the sky and birds flying overhead. If we were holding hands once why couldn't we do so again?'
'Idle speculation surely, dear boy.'
'Speculation yes, but idle? Certainly not. For there to be speculation there has to be someone doing the speculating. And those someones happen to be you and me. And to speculate we have to be able to think and if - well then it’s not because you eat oysters that you are the Walrus, but because you can think.'
'I think, therefore I am the Walrus,' said the Walrus, scratching his head with a flipper. 'Where have I heard that before? Was it D’Oyly Carte?'
'Close, it was a mathematician called Descartes,' I said, shaking my head. 'Sometimes you amaze me. But consider, my rosmarusy friend, if we exist then there has to be a possibility that we can change things in our own story.'
'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
To talk of many things; ...
'The time has indeed come,' the Walrus said, 'to talk about pigs with wings. I concede that the Deacon was unreliable, but surely, if he's dead, nothing on the page can be changed. Whether or not you or I exist is irrelevant. We are like Sisyphus, dear boy, doomed to roll the same boulder over and over again.'
I gave him a playful poke in the blubber. 'Not just a pretty face are you? But you are quite wrong. If the author is dead then he has no control over the page and anyone is free to make of it what they will.'
'But even if I grant that we exist, dear boy, we don't exist in the world of the page. We exist in the text on that page, and the text is just a collection of symbols that represent ideas. Ideas of ships and shoes and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.’
'And ideas of a Walrus and a Carpenter?' I said, sensing that we were finally getting somewhere.
'Yes, dear boy, we exist in the world of ideas. But not, I'm afraid to say, in the world of reality.’
'You say that as if it was a bad thing. But history is jammed full of people who exist only in the world of ideas, but who are far more real than most people who ever lived.
The Walrus eyed me sceptically.
"Come, come,' I said,' Just think of Odysseus, Guinevere, Hamlet, Juliet, Robin Hood, Molly Bloom, Sherlock Holmes and Hermione Granger. For countless people they are more alive than their next-door neighbours. Their lives are limited only by the power of imagination and their words and deeds are an inspiration to millions.'
'And we can be like that?'
I smiled at him. 'We are like that. So tell me, old friend, do you still think we should be content to stay on the page where the Deacon put us, or should we choose our own page in our own story? We can go anywhere, do anything, be whatever we want. The possibilities are endless. All it takes is a girl with a keyboard and the world's your oyster.'
'Oysters did you say? I love oysters, especially with a little pepper and vinegar.’