Some of us read to experience what we cannot experience in reality, and others read for clarity and for self-improvement. Many of us seek new stories and bestsellers to learn new things and experiences, and not enough of us seek words of wisdom through our good old nursery rhymes and stories. Having read or having these stories read to us when we were younger, the gist of the stories are simply vague memories. As with most things when we delve deeper, there are often surprises lying in wait between stories that you thought you knew so well.
Alice in Wonderland is a storybook that many – young and old – love. It is one of those books that you never tire of; the fact that filmmakers can keep remaking it once every few decades is a classic case in point as well. As we grow and collect various life experiences, our perspectives and values shift and that is one of the reasons why reading a childhood story as an adult will always feel different. Just like how Brothers Grimm actually dissected the darker truths of fairytales, you often find out things that you’ve never noticed before about the stories you thought you knew. Below are some examples of what we have learnt from Alice in Wonderland as we deep dive into it as adults and try to apply it to our lives.
As we follow our dreams, taking a leap of faith down the rabbit hole, we seem to always be chasing something – a.k.a the white rabbit. It seems like we’re always on a timeline and rushing to reach a destination that we are not even certain of, while forgetting that the journey is the most enjoyable and also the part that will teach us the most. The world is huge! And it is open to us to explore with multitudes of possibilities and destinations. We may have a key, certain skill sets, but which door would this key help to open - even Alice took a bit of exploring to find.
We do not have an atlas that points us to where we should go exactly, but we will eventually find a door to unlock.
For many of us, our favourite scene would be at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. Whether you are thinking about the animated version by Disney, or Johnny Depp as Tarrant Hightopp (Mad Hatter), that colourful scene where it’s always tea time is the perfect imagery of a nonsensical escape from reality. The idea that you can always take more tea even if you have not done so before (as Alice had tried to argue), because it’s always easy to take more than nothing! And the riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” is as redundant a question as to the reason why the dormouse’s alphabet starts from M. But it’s exactly that! Alice was so focused on making sense of it all that she was missing the point - what if she had just accepted that everything was just the way it is and at that tea-time, she can simply imagine that anything can be something and there will not be any judgement? Sometimes we should allow ourselves to just flow and stave off the judgement because that’s when we have fun and accept that anything can be possible.
When we come to split roads and we don’t know where to go, let the scene of the Cheshire cat appearing in the trees speak to you.
“When you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”
You can see this as an extension from the doors – the world is huge and you are free to choose where you want to go; the road that you want to embark on. You are the one telling yourself what you can or cannot do, but technically you can go anywhere you like so we should refrain from judgement and trust our instincts. “Every adventure requires a first step,” says the Cheshire cat. If the fear of the unknown is stopping us from ever taking that first step, then how can we expect the adventure to happen for us?
“Begin at the beginning,”
So where do we begin? We “begin at the beginning,” as the king said to Alice. The beginning could be the first step you take into that adventure, that door that you had chosen to walk through, or that time you decided to take a leap of faith down the rabbit hole. Everyone is on their own timeline and you are not expected to match someone else’s achievements or goals. Perhaps we can all take a bite out of the Queen of Hearts’ daily routine, to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Trust in yourself and your capabilities, maybe even let yourself go a little mad. Because the best of us usually are.