curiouser and curiouser

Having recently finished assisting with the production of Alice in Wonderland (in which child number three played Tweedledee. Perfectly, of course), I feel an affinity for today, Lewis Carroll’s birthday. I have to admit, I never really liked Disney’s version of Alice. It seemed to me to make an offbeat, seemingly pointless book into a truly pointless movie. Surprisingly, my kids agreed. Their reactions to the Disney Alice movie:

Tell-it-like-it-is child number one: He’s on drugs.

Free-spirit child number two: (while twirling about the room) “ ‘In my youth’, Father William replied to his son, ‘I feared it might injure the brain; But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none, Why, I do it again and again.'”

Analytic child number three: This makes no sense. Why would anyone do that?

But now that I’m older, I have come to a much finer appreciation of pointlessness. I mean, if we outlawed pointlessness, an awful lot of government institutions would disappear instantly.

As most of the planet knows, the new Alice in Wonderland movie debuts soon. March 5, to be precise. To celebrate the author’s birthday, besides having a very rousing un-birthday party tonight for everyone but him, I decided to find some lovely quotes to ponder from Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. You be the judge of whether this is nonsense. It seems awfully like the truth to me.

“It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!”

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.

“‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ said Alice. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all mad here.’

“Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.

“I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then.”

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward.”

“One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.

“She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).

“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know.”

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.

And my personal favorite: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

A long time ago, I wrote an article for some parenting magazines on why I found it important to encourage children to believe the impossible. (Good for adults, too.) More and more, it seems that our kids are bombarded with the idea that the only things worth putting their faith in are the things they can see and touch. Things that get them closer to their career path. Things that make sense. That explains, I suppose, why our schools recently cut their arts programs drastically while pretty much retaining the State Champion football team untouched.

Yet the more I know of life, the more I know that the greatest parts of it–the most wonder-inspiring and dangerous–can’t be seen, or predicted, or quantified. They’re found in the arc of a Planet Suite , the brush strokes of a water lily garden, the grin of an inner-city kid who just got accepted to college, the faces of a little girl from China and an American couple who just found “family.” All these things should be impossible. But they should be fervently believed in.

In the Bible, we read the poetic images of trees clapping their hands and Jesus’ unlikely stories of mustard seeds and lost sons. We rejoice in the improbable delight of a shepherd boy turned king or a teenage girl bearing God himself. God’s love of the impossible soars through every penstroke. If He can believe it, so can I.

It’s too late to begin before breakfast, but do try to believe at least six impossible things today. I’m guessing that if you succeed, you’ll find it easier to get out of bed tomorrow.

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