“Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. […]
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 12
I always felt drawn to Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carrolls) and his writings. Perhaps it’s his atypical writing style. Or maybe the fact that he was a practicing deacon of the Roman Catholic church and still taught mathematics at Oxford University. Or that he shared my passion for both writing and photography. Either way, he was an interesting persona. Prominent in science, equally prominent in theology. Caught somewhere between art and science. He would very much fit the profile of an ITP student. Only he was alive towards the end of the Victorian Era. And he is long gone now. But his writings remain. They are a testimony of wisdom, subtleness, and courage. His writings have long been an inspiration to me. At some instances, they did change my life. When I saw Alice in Wonderland in the recommended readings list during the summer, I decided that ITP was the place for me. Alice brought me here.
Alice… Where shall I begin?
Alice in Wonderland. Land of dreams. Dreams of wonder. Wonderful. Full of wonder. Full of life. Childhood dreams. Childhood fears. Growth. Rules. Life.
Alice in Wonderland is Alice’s journey in a rabbit hole. It is poignant, funny, nonsensical, cruel, insane. But then again, so is life.
It is Alice’s journey through life. The people she meets, or doesn’t meet. The places she wants to go to but can’t seem to reach. The places she finds herself in. The people she encounters who confuse her. And the ones who help her find her way. The grinning Cheshire cat. The cat-less Cheshire grin. The antipathetic caterpillar who eventually ends up helping her. The rude mad hatter perpetually reliving his 6-o’clock tea-time party over and over again.
Throughout the entire book, Alice is perpetually changing. Some would argue that the book is about her growing up, her transition from childhood to adulthood. It is not totally wrong. Her growing in size most certainly symbolizes her maturing process, which in the book, seems to be happening overnight. It also refers to the physical transformations one goes through in their teens. She sometimes shrinks back. But eventually, there is no escape from growing up, no matter how hard we try.
The fear of growing up is a main recurrent theme in the book. The scene in the beginning, when Alice is in the room, with the key laid on the table, and the door accessible, is very frustrating yet almost crucial to the understanding of this concept. It almost seems too easy to grab the key and use it to open the door beyond which lies a beautiful colorful garden . The only problem is that the door is too small, and Alice is too big. She has all it takes to get past this door, except that she wouldn’t fit in it. So she drinks the potion, and shrinks. Now, she can use the door, but the key is still on the table, and she is too small to reach it, and even if she did reach it, the key would be to heavy for her to lift. The key in a way, represents her level of maturity, her growing up. In order to enter the phenomenal wonderland, she has to look at the world through her childhood eyes. Wonderland is some sort of escape goat for Alice. Alice’s wonderland is like Peter Pan’s Neverland, a place where you never grow up, a place where all your childhood dreams and fantasies are true, a place where you don’t have to be serious, make life-altering decisions, a place where you don’t have to face reality. The ending with Alice’s sister imagining Alice all grown-up wraps the life cycle aspect of the story. It also further emphasizes the author’s fear of seeing Alice grow up and lose her childhood spirit.
Alice’s journey in Wonderland feels like a dream. The imagery used is extraordinary. Objects like the watch that only indicates the month and day, and characters such as the Cheshire cat with his detachable grin, or the hookah smoking caterpillar, the mad-hatter, the queen and king of hearts are so complex and very inspiring for designers and programmers alike. The key to this world is madness. One should be mad, innocent, and imaginative to enter Wonderland. And Alice is. And that applies also to ITP. To me, it is the equivalent of Alice’s Wonderland in the real world. If we don’t let our imagination flow freely, if we are not mad, we won’t be able to come up with mind-blowing concepts and great projects.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)
We must all be mad. And we are. And we are all going somewhere. Where exactly? Who knows. Life is uncertain. Everything is uncertain. And Alice’s Wonderland shows just that. The mushroom has two sides: one that makes you shrink and one that makes you grow. You have to know where to bite, and learn from your mistakes. You can never know for sure what to expect. Creativity knows no boundaries. It’s a world of its own. It can and will take us places. Where exactly? Who knows?
Let’s wait and see.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)