LIkewise and Contrariwise


Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum the two identical brothers that Alice encounters in Through the Looking Glass are mirror images of one another. They act in perfect interdependence like the two opposing poles of a magnet. They are intimately connected by their disagreements. They always agree to disagree. “Likewise, and contrariwise”  in fact mean the same thing.

They agree to have a battle.  They choose to do battle over the broken rattle, the smallest and most insignificant of things (an infants toy). Despite the twins being childish and foolish, they bring up the philosophical question of how we exist. Martin Gardner in the Annotated Alice explains that “the Tweedle brothers  defend Bishop Berkeley’s view that all material objects, including ourselves are only sorts of things in the mind of God”.

‘He’s dreaming now,’ said Tweedledee: ‘and what do you think he’s dreaming about?’

Alice said ‘Nobody can guess that.’

‘Why, about you!’ Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. ‘And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you’d be?’

‘Where I am now, of course,’ said Alice.

‘Not you!’ Tweedledee retorted contemptuously. ‘You’d be nowhere. Why, you’re only a sort of thing in his dream!’

‘If that there King was to wake,’ added Tweedledum, ‘you’d go out— bang!—just like a candle!’

‘I shouldn’t!’ Alice exclaimed indignantly. ‘Besides, if I’m only a sort of thing in his dream, what are you, I should like to know?’

‘Ditto,’ said Tweedledum.

‘Ditto, ditto!’ cried Tweedledee.

He shouted this so loud that Alice couldn’t help saying ‘Hush! You’ll be waking him, I’m afraid, if you make so much noise.’

‘Well, it’s no use your talking about waking him,’ said Tweedledum, ‘when you’re only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you’re not real.’

‘I am real!’ said Alice, and began to cry.

‘You won’t make yourself a bit realer by crying,’ Tweedledee remarked: ‘there’s nothing to cry about.’

‘If I wasn’t real,’ Alice said—half laughing through her tears, it all seemed so ridiculous—’I shouldn’t be able to cry.’

The dream is central to the Alice books. Alice’s adventure starts as she falls asleep on the riverbank and finishes when she wakes up. The episode with the Tweedle brothers and the King  is  a dream within a dream. The view that  all phenomena including ourselves  come from the mind (although not the mind of God) accords with Buddhist teachings.  We  easily accept that our minds create our reality when discussing dreams, yet have difficulty accepting this is true for waking life.  Buddha means someone who has awakened. Meaning that we lead our lives mostly asleep, conditioned by ignorance, unaware of the way things truly exist, as if in a dream. When we awaken, we see clearly how all things including ourselves exist in interdependence and so we are freed from the fear and anxiety of ‘ bang going out like a candle”.



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