Monday, March 15, 2010

Much More

Alice Mosaic #1Liliana Porter's mosaic in the 50th Street subway station

Question: Have you seen the latest “Alice In Wonderland” movie?

If ‘yes,’ good. Because I’m going to make a few references to it.

If ‘no,’ feel free to keep reading anyways. I won’t give anything important away.

But if you’d rather not hear about the movie before you've seen it, please stop reading and watch Zach Galifianakis’ recent SNL monologue instead.

Now for the rest of you's, let's continue...

Ok, so the wild and weird Mr. Tim Burton has made a wild and weird version of "Alice in Wonderland."  It's not perfect, but most of it is visually cool and pretty entertaining.

There was one part in particular that struck me. The Mad Hatter (played by Mr. Johnny Depp, master of creepy wide-eyed staring) says to the movie’s reluctant heroine: "You used to be much muchier before. Yes, you were much more Alice the last time we met. You have lost your muchness."

You used to be much muchier.  You have lost your muchness.

What does it mean - this idea of muchness?  Though the word did appear in Lewis Carroll's original story, it was employed there as an enigmatic nonsense phrase (which apparently already existed in the vernacular of Carroll's era). The use of "muchness" to mean an internal quality of Alice's character, a je ne sais quoi, a sense of spirit and self, seems to be unique to Tim Burton’s adaptation. (As far as I can tell.)

And yet the idea of "muchness" is older than Burton, older even than Wonderland.  When I heard the Hatter utter that phrase to Alice, I thought, "Aha!  Hebrew!"

Some of you may be familiar with the verse in Deuteronomy1 which goes a little something like this: "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."

The Hebrew word that is translated here as "strength" is מאד or ma'od. Sometimes it gets translated as “might” (looking at you, King James). But most often when this word is used in Hebrew it simply means "much" or "very." And it usually functions as an adverb - only rarely as a noun.

So another way to read the verse in Deuteronomy is: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your much-ness.”

But what does it mean – to love God with all our muchness? What is our muchness? And if we feel we’ve lost our muchness, how do we go about getting it back?

I don’t have any answers, though it’s something I’ve been pondering lately. I suspect that, unlike Alice, my path to muchness will probably not involve a Jabberwocky, unless you mean “Jabberwocky” in a metaphorical sense, in which case I have to ask, “Just how does one take a Jabberwocky in a metaphorical sense?” (I’ve never been good with metaphors.)

Rather I think - just a little seedling of a thought right now - that perhaps the key to muchness lies in the Deuteronomy verses surrounding the one above (Deut 6:4, 6-9). And perhaps - another seedling - the word “integrate”2 could be an essential concept in applying those verses and in the search for muchness.

Well, I think I’ll leave all that mulling and simmering for another post (perhaps).

In the interim, I’ll leave you to ponder muchness, or go see “Alice in Wonderland,” or watch Zach Galifianakis’ recent SNL monologue. Or none of the above. It’s your bag, baby, do what you like. But I wish you muchness on whichever path you choose.

1 You may also know this verse as it is later quoted in the Gospels, but I can’t really address that version. Because…it’s Greek to me! So we’re sticking with the Hebrew here.

2 Which just so happens to be my unofficial word of 2010. I say “unofficial” because I forgot to tell anyone (except MadDawg) that I had chosen it, and then I forgot about it myself until just now. Mid-March. Is it too late in the 2010-game to pick a word for the year? If not, then “integrate” just became my official one. Check it.

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