Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Originally posted on September 28, 2014

Lewis Carroll wrote two books in the mid-late 19th century, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass. (Lewis Carroll was his pen name; his real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Interestingly, a number of authors have had what’s called a nom de plume, a pen name.)

Disney conflated those tw0 “Alice” books into one movie. He left out many episodes and mixed a bit of one story in with another. In the second Through the Looking-Glass book, one of the themes is how everything works backwards. Another theme in the story is that chess pieces come alive. So in the fifth chapter, Alice meets the White Queen—a bit of a dippy lady who thinks backwards. Anyway, one special line charmed me and is relevant here:

The queen announces her age as one hundred and one years old. Alice replies, “I can’t believe that!” Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’ Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.” To this the White Queen responded—and this is the punch-line: “’I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!

On the face of it, it’s nonsense. In our own era, it’s creative thinking. It’s as if I invited you to dare imagine six impossible inventions—we live in an era of inventions, really. I mentioned this in my first lecture on imagination development for the Fall 2014 session of our Senior University Georgetown. This lifelong learning program has been going on now for about 17 years, and there are 6 weeks of lectures Fall and early Spring.

Imagination Development

My point in this series is that although everyone has an imagination, few really use it more than a little bit. It can be and should be exercised and our own era is about redeeming this potential for our own creativity—personally, job-wise, and for the positive evolution of our culture.

The class introduces some of these themes and then in the second lecture, explores how cartoonists and comic strip artists use surrealistic elements, imaginative elements, to stretch our minds. The third level extends this and explores how elves and fairies and such have been used as a theme in many cartoons, and what is the function of these kinds of imaginary beings, anyway?

In the fourth lecture I don my guise as part elf, capable of traveling among the dimensions, much as the “Dreamweaver” does in the Disney World “Imagination” ride. It’s a stretching of the imagination, that’s all, though I confess I sneak in some mind-boggles here and there.

In the fifth lecture I sorta kinda come down to earth talking about myth in human consciousness, its function, its varieties. And then in early November I’ll talk about how imagination can be stretched in many practical ways. Well, that’s enough for now.

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