Why is our ship called Snark? Not a reference to the snarky American form of sarcasm but to an imaginary beast.
Louise Carrol, of Alice in Wonderland fame, wrote the poem ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ in 1876. It is often described as a nonsense, but it is anything but. It follows the hunt for the illusive beast called a snark by a disparate group of men from all sections of society, each burdened with his own struggles and describes how some of them at least find themselves on the hunt. Towards the end of his life Carroll, or Rev. Charles Dobson as he was properly known, conceded that the poem was an allegory for the pursuit of happiness. At the end of the poem the Baker meets with the Snark and ;
‘ In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee
He had softly and suddenly vanished away
For the Snark was a Boojum you see. ‘
For those of us who continue to search for meaning and purpose in life, the pursuit of happiness may sometimes appear to be a false destination. It seems it cannot be a permanent state, being on one side of an apparent continuum from despair to ecstasy. We should remember however that Dobson was writing at a time when Epicureanism was still very influential.
In this world view the greatest good is to seek only modest pleasures in order to attain happiness which is defined as a from freedom from fear, ataraxia, and the absence from pain, aponia. This combination of states is held to constitute happiness in its highest and most sustainable form, achieved according to Epicurus through the pursuit of a simple life.
So, our boat is called Snark, our pursuit of happiness, nonsense? an illusion? allegory? All of them perhaps but worthy of the quest. Oh and the ship's tender is called Boo.