I am an “Alice-o-phile”. I adore Alice in Wonderland and have forever and ever. My basement stairwell is painted as a Rabbit Hole and I have a collection of Alice art and copies of Alice because early on, I understood the message of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass at an archetypal level.
Alice is our escort into the many absurd notions, ideas, politics and policies, beliefs and attitudes that underlie society and the way we see “reality”. And oh how long and absurd this list is of beliefs we are so convinced are true, important, real, and urgent. Why just the other day, I overheard a woman at the gym say to her friend, “I’ve got to hurry. If I don’t get this report in to my colleagues, the business deal we’ve been working on will be toast.”
“That’s absurd,” I thought. “If that report were so important – if you were so important to the business deal - what on earth are you doing at the gym?” Silly, silly girl – and now, I thought, she is going to rush away from the gym in a state of “It’s all about ME-ness”. An “Alice moment”, if there ever was one – and there are plenty in my world because I see so much “through the Looking Glass”. (Seeing through the Looking Glass requires that you reverse what you’re looking at, viewing everything through its opposite. If something appears complicated, see it as simple. People always look for “something”. Note this classic line from A through the LG: “I wish I could see nothing as well as you can.” Brilliant…)
We live in a world that is completely in love with going in the wrong direction. For example, we live in a society that completely trusts the rational mind to structure and order “reality”. (For starters, just look at what the rational mind has produced: wars, weapons, bio-destructive forces, environmental disasters, politics of deceit, religious corruption, false gods and bogus religious myths, bizarre notions of what’s real and what isn’t – like the doctrine of creationism in this, the 21st century, though civilization is much older than 21 centuries.) The absurdity of what we believe to be true and yet, how we behave as a “civilized” people is incomprehensible – much less how we go about negotiating our definition of being civilized. But enough of that…you get the picture.
Let’s jump back into Lewis Carroll and his magic. He delighted in satirizing the love affair that members of Victorian society had with themselves and, in particular, their addiction to snobbery. He looked at what the upper class could not bear to examine about themselves, which was, in essence, their own lavish lifestyles, attitudes, and well maintained prejudices about the way the world was and simply had to remain in order to keep them happy. But it is precisely this addiction to one’s personal enclosed comfort zone that positions a person to become exactly what he or she believes an elite lifestyle and privilege protects a person from becoming: close-minded, irrational, unyielding, unrealistic, and completely out of touch with the world at large. To say this another way: The more a person has to lose in life, the less likely that person is to welcome change or to embrace the vast world of the imagination.
Social and political revolutions have always been initiated at the grass roots level because those at the “top” have the most to lose. They see no reason for society to change, because from where they are sitting (Wall Street), everything looks just fine. Those who can envision energy technology, for instance, and have urged the auto and other industries for decades now to invest in energy technologies, have done so for several reasons, among them these two: First, they can see the handwriting on the decline of the oil-based economic wall. That is, we have to move in the direction of alternative fuels. But secondly, these visionaries simply can imagine the impossible. These are the people who are not afraid to take a risk and go where others have not yet gone in thought, in action, and yes, in investment in financial resources.
Carl Jung adored the realm of the imagination. He may well be the master explorer of our age of this domain. For him, the imagination contained the passageways to the psyche and the inner voices of our archetypes. Active imagination was an essential tool that he introduced, establishing a form of communication between the conscious and unconscious self. Right there we have something to imagine as impossible: opening a portal of communication between your conscious and unconscious self. That may be getting ahead of yourself a bit, but such a mega-thought does qualify for imagining the impossible, if you have never, in fact, considered undertaking such an endeavor.
Imagining the impossible – what a delicious and positively enchanting notion. And yet, the realm of the imagination is a fully and completely threatening place to suggest to a person who fears the loss of the familiar. As children, the world of the imagination is an acceptable playground because children are not yet rational creatures and a child’s imagination is considered cute – to an extent. Children are supposed to have imaginations – for a while. Technically speaking, if one can say such a thing, the psychic boundaries of children are still porous; therefore, they are subject to the “hallucinations” of the imagination. These include, for example, imaginary playmates and perhaps seeing the occasional fairy or sprite. Dark spirits may even show up. But a child is likely to be told that these nonphysical visitors are not “real”, they are merely “imaginary”. Thus, early on the lines in the sand are clearly drawn: What comes from the mind is “real”; what comes from the imagination is, well, imaginary. Not real. A poof of a thing, no more than a whimsical passing thought form.
Now granted the mind has “poofs” all the time, ideas that run through it this way and that, but because such thoughts come from the mind, these are not the same type of “imaginary” thoughts because…well…because they can perhaps wear the label of “practical” or “provable” or “conventional”. A value is made apparent very quickly to baby humans: If you are going to delve into the impossible, just make sure it’s the “practical impossible” and that your ideas can solve problems or increase production or profits somewhere. Having ideas just for the fun of having ideas is well, impractical! A waste of imaginary income – not that a person imagines or visualizes income….well, perhaps people do. But do such thoughts really qualify for “imagining” or just wishing? That question leads us to this most important question: Do people really know how to fall down the Rabbit Hole? It’s an art, after all, and not an accident.
The Art of Falling Down The Rabbit Hole
I’m an expert on falling down the Rabbit Hole. I live in the world of the imagination and the impossible. I rely upon the imagination to fill me with ideas on a continual basis. If I lived in the ordinary world, I would disintegrate in short order because the ordinary world is a place filled with reasons why ideas can’t succeed and with the wounds of failure and painful memories of the past that keep reminding people that they should live fearful lives instead of inspiring ones. In fact, even while writing this, a friend called for a business-related matter but in warming up to our meeting, he asked what I was doing. I told him I was writing a piece based on Alice in Wonderland. He asked if I liked the movie. I said, “Not really, and I suspect Lewis Carroll would not have cared for it either. Alice was meant to be enchanted in Wonderland and not be disappointed by characters who were defeated by an angry Red Queen.” He asked me why I loved Alice so much and I carried on and on about my many reasons and even brought the wisdom of Alice into the nonsense of the politics of Washington – which was not all that difficult. But after all that, he said, “I have an idea,” and off we went into the realm of the imagination, into the world of what is waiting to be created, ideas just waiting for a chance to incarnate.
Falling down the Rabbit Hole requires the capacity to “let go” and allow your imagination to take flight, giving form and vision to possibilities and impossibilities – before you let your mind tell you they are absurd, ridiculous, too expensive, and then that final blow, “What will people say?” What do you care what people say? I never have – and that is the great secret of the Rabbit Hole. You simply have to get over your fear of what other people think. For what possible reasons do you care what other people think?
Now to be clear – I am speaking of creative ideas, not of running out on my responsibilities, incurring huge debts, shooting up drugs, or deciding on a life of theft. So let’s be realistic about what I am speaking about when I speak about not caring about what other people think. I still have my head on straight and my feet firmly planted on the ground – but not my imagination. That part of me is given full reign to go off to places known and unknown to me. My target is the realm of ideas, original thought, creativity, and accessing the deep resources of your soul from which springs your “charism” or your “unique creative grace.” Visionaries and creative geniuses know this inner sanctuary, as do great poets, writers, and pioneers of science and medicine. This is where Emily Dickenson dwelled as well as Shakespeare, Mozart, Bach, Einstein, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. They all fell down their unique Rabbit Holes. They imagined worlds that did not yet exist and their lives became devoted to incarnating those worlds. I have no doubt that they imagined far more than six impossible things before breakfast every morning.
It’s easy to tell who has what it takes to sojourn down their Rabbit Holes. Within seconds of conversing with people, they say something that reveals whether they are courageous or frightened, or whether they essentially travel backwards all the time. They soon reveal whether they have the stamina of spirit to explore the unknown in their life or whether most of their decisions are aimed at keeping everything the same as it always has been. Backward travelers will never be able to find their Rabbit Holes. They have to be content with reading Lewis Carroll and simply wishing their life could be different. They will find it difficult to penetrate into the realm of the imagination, as there is a profound difference between wishing and imagining.
Wishing Versus The Power of The Imagination
Wishing has little, if any, real power. It’s musing at best and a passing thought or fancy in its weakest form. A wish is a temporary enchantment that lacks the backbone and substance to attract creative life force or power.
Imagination, on the other hand, takes effort, energy, and generates a substantial amount of emotional and psychic response once you make contact with a great idea. Merging with a unique vision is the same as having an unfamiliar download of grace rush through your system. In an instant, it penetrates into your intellect, your emotions, your mind, your vocabulary; your archetypal dynamics adjust themselves to new symbolic content – shifting your understanding of the cosmos. You can feel the power of that idea – that vision – take hold of you as it runs through your blood like a new drug, making its way into your neurology. And then it’s locked into your psyche. It’s yours. The download is complete and you are on a high that is unexplainable to anyone who has never been swept away by the thrill of contact with the realm of original thought. This is a love affair unlike anything on earth because it isn’t of the earth. But it soon will be – that becomes your task as the vessel of the imagination.
Original thought implodes someone who won’t do what’s required to be a container and vessel of that which others cannot see or comprehend. You have to be someone who can handle being misunderstood or keeping your own creative company or handling a vision others cannot understand. You have to be strong enough to believe alone – and for a long time – in what others cannot imagine. Many people have been able to do that, but most people cannot stand alone in the demanding realm of the imagination. So they live in the lesser world of fantasies and musings.
What if you really could fall down the Rabbit Hole? Would you? Doesn’t it tempt you even a little – or perhaps more than a little? Wouldn’t you love to let yourself go and tumble into your own great unknown – the unknown that is your own unimagined life that you could imagine if you fell down the Rabbit Hole? You know you would.
You could tell yourself this is just a game, so let’s just say this is just a game. Okay – falling down the Rabbit Hole is just a game. (But what if it isn’t? I had to say that – I just had to.)
Falling down your Rabbit Hole requires that you dwell in the world of your imagination. But really dwell in it. Nurture it. And here’s the challenging part: You have to do what your creativity calls for, in order to bring forth the ideas you are imagining. They won’t just fall from the sky. Books, for example, don’t write themselves. Great discoveries in medicine just don’t happen. Poets actually sweat over their poems even though they’ve been completely saturated with the grace of imagination. You must understand that you form a working partnership with your imagination. Consider that one never forms a working partnership with a wish – how absurd is that? Fairy tales always lead a person to believe that a “wish” alone does all the work. Now really – a wish and a bunch of fairies – and people believe this more than they believe in mystical consciousness. And you talk about absurd????? Anyway – on to the impossible – which is utterly possible.
Believing in Six Impossible Things Per Day
This could be the most fun exercise I have ever given you, by the way. Do NOT answer these questions rapidly. Answering rapidly is an indication that you do not want to give reflective thought to these questions which – let me point out – you have never been asked before. Therefore, you can’t possibly know the correct response right off the top of your head. These questions require reflection. And they are questions in search of responses versus “answers”.
1) Define what’s
impossible versus what’s possible for you. You’ve said to yourself,
“That’s impossible.” What were you talking about when you said that
and why was “that” – whatever that was – impossible? Too risky? Too
much money? Would you risk looking foolish?
2) What’s the key difference between what you see as possible versus impossible? In particular, you are to carry this description all the way to the point of including “consequences”. That is, what would be the consequences of the things in your life that you declared were impossible – because in identifying the consequences, you are naming what you are really afraid of experiencing?
3) Everyone travels backwards because everyone has a history. The object now is to determine this: How often each day do you travel backwards in time? All day? Most of the day? Occasionally?
4) Are most of your decisions aimed at keeping your life as it is or introducing change? What is your rationale for your decisions: Safety or new experiences and adventure?
5) Do you tend to dismiss the creative ideas of others, looking for why new ideas of suggestions won’t work as opposed to why they could work?
6) Is there some part of your life that you would like to move forward that would be assisted by believing in six impossible things?
Imagining Six Impossible Things
Start anywhere. Or you can build all six impossible ideas around a strategy, all supporting the desire to break through something. Imagine something in your life that you would like to be other than the way it is. Imagine something absurd, for instance, or you doing something you have never done before. For example, imagine yourself wearing something you’ve always wanted to wear, or imagine yourself speaking to a neighbor that you really do want to meet, or imagine yourself climbing a tree.
Here’s the real point of this exercise: Holding these imaginings is symbolic of the White Queen in Alice – pure new thought. Consider the Red Queen the aggressive part of your mind that will come to do battle with pure thought, pure imaginings, pure creativity. The Red Queen will always try to destroy a creative gift as the Red Queen represents the opposition of the collective unconscious as well as your external world and your own inner saboteur, so you must meet that force on your inner battlefield. If you can grasp that, then you can understand that the object of imagining the impossible is a multileveled discipline that introduces you to the power of your imagination and creativity as well as to your inner saboteur.
But imagining is ultimately not enough. You have to do more than just imagine. You have to act on something that you imagine. You have to bring it forth and give it life. The “impossible” requires vigilance and dedicated attention and constant courageous choices as well as a willingness to allow your life to change in “impossible” directions – directions transcendent of north, south, east, and west. Imagine that.
How often should you make a list of six impossible things? That all depends on how daring you are and how bold an imagination you have. In this regard, there are no rules. You decide. My list is endless.
Just go for it. Enter the realm of impossibilities. One of the most delicious lines Emily Dickenson ever wrote was: Dwell in impossibilities. She obviously resided down the Rabbit Hole. It’s no wonder she is my favorite poetess.
© 2009 Myss.com - Caroline Myss is a New
York Times best-selling author whose books include Anatomy
the Spirit, Why
Don’t Heal and How They Can, Sacred
Contacts, and Entering
Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason, will be
published by Hay House in October 2009.
Listen to Caroline every week on www.HayHouseRadio.com