In Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, Alice exemplifies the universal human characteristic of wonder as her journey is filled with surreal encounters and challenges. She is surprisingly steadfast and her sense of curiosity and adventure carry the story.
Curiouser and curiouser, how does that caterpillar metamorphose into a moth or a butterfly? Do all white rabbits have pink eyes? Is there really such a thing as a Gryphon?
There are so many things in life that are a mystery, we sometimes forget that. Often curiosity leads to google for an answer, so instead of marvelling at the bird in the tree, we want to quickly identify it; in the process of doing so we miss seeing the behaviour, sounds and colours right before our very eyes. Over 150 years ago when Alice in Wonderland was written it really was all about imagination. According to Travis Proulx at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, surreal and absurdist literature, like Alice in Wonderland, influences our cognition. His research has found that fantastical and absurdist stories push our brains to be more flexible, making us more creative, and quicker to learn new ideas. It also makes us more open to another way of looking or being.
An enquiring curious mind that doesn’t need to look things up on google can expand, be more creative, and we feel joy. We observe the bird with the red black and white markings, the drumming sound against the tree and then it’s out of sight, flown away. We can imagine the woodpecker lives in one of the big round holes, we can imagine the tree being an insect hotel or a favourite spot where a squirrel has buried food for the winter. Stop to wonder and see the wonder.
Alice in Wonderland meets so many absurd characters that come to life in her imagination. One is the caterpillar sitting on a mushroom smoking the hookah pipe, he asks Alice in his low drawn out voice: “Whooo … are … you?”.
A question that takes Alice by surprise, after some thought she replies:
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
(PS, this question may drop you down the rabbit hole!).